WHAT IT IS?
It’s an air-based meat created from elements found in the air we breathe, produced without the traditional land, water and weather requirements. It’s possible thanks to an idea developed by NASA in the 1960s for deep-space travel, and it could be a key to reinventing how we grow food.
Picture the following scenario in your mind:
Imagine you are part of a crew of astronauts traveling to Mars or some distant planet. The travel time could take a year or even longer. The space and resources on board are limited. So, you and the crew would have to figure out how to produce food with minimal inputs. What if you could bring with you just a few packets of seeds, and grow crops in a matter of hours to feed the entire crew?Lisa Dyson, scientist and CEO of Kiverdi in TED Talk Paris 2016.
Now relate that situation with the upcoming scarce world reality of resources and a little help from microorganisms. The technology developed by Kiverdi was inspired by NASA’s closed-loop carbon cycle concepts for long-journey space missions. It produces protein from the air using natural processes, made completely free of any use of pesticides, herbicides, hormones, or antibiotics.
WHY IT’S COOL?
- It reduces dependency on land and water resources, establishing a new industry of sustainable food with the promise to solve growing global food demands without the need for arable land. Also requires a significantly smaller fraction of the land used in traditional meat and milk production;
- The process is attractive because it’s natural and familiar for us, similar to making yogurt or beer. Microbes are already an integral part of our everyday lives if we think about brewing, for example;
- It’s inspiring because it provides the possibility of a future of abundance, a plausible solution to revert to the current destructive logic of agriculture and the food industry;
- It’s aligned with the plant-based mindset to avoid consuming animal diet because of cruelty;
- The product made by fermentation is fairly versatile. While it contains good nutritional credentials, it can be used in many different ways.
WHY IT HAS FUTURE GROWTH POTENTIAL?
The technology of carbon transformation involves breaking down carbon materials into their fundamental elements and building them back up into a range of bio-based products that are friendlier to our planet. This process can make food in a matter of hours not months, and independently from weather conditions and seasons. It can grow in any season or geography. It also can be scaled vertically, which means to produce much more per area.
Furthermore, this new protein source will be able to make meatless burgers and not only food but more valuable products like oils that can be used for flavoring and fragrances, biodegradable cleaners or even as jet fuel.
Expanding the list of possibilities, it allows creating a sustainable type of agriculture. According to a UN population report released last year, by the year 2050, there will be some 9.7 billion people living on the planet, and the projection is that we need to increase food production by 70%. To meet this demand, we definitely demand new forms of sustainable production that are good for business and the planet. As Lisa says, by creating systems that keep our spaceship Planet Earth safe from crashing and causing the planet to collapse, we can also develop systems and ways of life beneficial to ourselves and the about 10 billion people who will live on it.
Here is a TED Talk with the scientist and entrepreneur Lisa Dyon explaining more about the production of the air-based protein. I highly recommend watching the whole video, but if you want to go straight to the point she explains her experiment, jump to 3’20”.