• Ana Rita Silva

Solar power and microbes could increase the protein quantity

Updated: Aug 25

A German team wants to revolutionize farming practices. They are working on a project that combines solar power and microbes, and can produce 10 times more protein than crops. This study is focused on soya beans since these types of crops are linked to the destruction of forests. They published the first quantitative comparison of land use and energy efficiency between traditional agriculture and solar-powered microbial production systems.

This system intends to use electricity from solar panels, and carbon from the air, to create fuel for microbes. These microbes, in turn, grow in bioreactor vats and then it's processed into dry protein powders. The process makes highly efficient use of land, water and fertilizer and could be deployed anywhere. Don't be fooled! - this system could be deployed in countries with strong or weak sunshine and fertile or poor soils. The analysis estimated that the solar-microbial process could produce 15 tonnes of protein per hectare (or per 2.5 acres) a year, enough to feed 520 people.


Dorian Leger, at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam, Germany, believes that “microbial food is very promising and will be one of the major contributors to solving the potential food crisis” that we live nowadays, with the increase of world population and the lack of food in some countries. Already exists several and common foods made from microbes, such as bread, yogurt, beer and much more. In addition, some companies are already producing animal feed products from microbes.


In addition, to fight hunger, it’s necessary to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the world and save water – for example, livestock farming results in huge amounts of green house gases, as well as water pollution. It will be impossible to tackle the climate crisis without slashing emissions from animal and dairy food production. The systems presented in this article, in addition to increase protein production, would also have very little impact on the environment. The researchers found that the microbial systems used just 1% of the water needed by the crops and small fraction of the fertiliser.


Other very interesting initiative is based in Finland and using electricity to create food for Humans – Solar Foods.


This article was written based on this piece.

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