In the quest to find cleaner, eco-friendlier products, some organisations are using processes to extract carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air to produce food and beverages.
A New York-based company, Air Co., makes “products that improve the world, by capturing excess carbon dioxide from the air and transforming it into things of value.” They launched their vodka, the world’s first carbon negative alcoholic beverage, just last year. According to their calculations, the production of a single bottle of vodka is equivalent to the carbon-absorbing power of seven and a half trees.
Using proprietary technology, Air Co. uses a process which has received awards from NASA and the UN, that is net carbon negative. The technology uses ‘carbon dioxide and water along with electricity to create alcohol,” says Stafford Sheehan, an electrochemist and cofounder of the start-up. The company has now, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, pivoted into making hand sanitisers, highlighting that this generation does not only care about self preservation but about protecting the environment too.
Set to launch in 2021, Finnish company Solar Foods is planning to bring to market a protein powder, Solein, made out of CO2, water and electricity. Based in California, Air Protein has unveiled the first prototypes of “air-based” meat . The company uses microbes which, in a process similar to photosynthesis, convert CO2 into protein.
Supply chains have been severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now and for the foreseeable future, the fate of traditional large scale industrial processes hangs in the balance. CO2 extraction processes, in addition to their carbon offsetting effect, require less physical space and manpower and are arguably better suited for the current manufacturing climate.
With the growing rate of food shortages and the destabilisation of traditional agriculture due to climate change, the use of carbon dioxide to produce food products will assist in alleviating the damaging effects of CO2 increases. The idea for air protein has been researched since the 1960s in order to produce food for long space missions. With climate change accelerating the need for such carbon offsetting technologies, companies are now on the brink of commercialising these products and, going forward, we should expect to see an increase in many others following suit.
By Faeeza Khan
Image credit: Food Navigator