Monday, May 20, 2024

Growing food from air more efficient than ground crops, say researchers

A team of researchers claims that making food from air would be far more efficient than growing crops in the traditional manner, reports In a paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology, the University of Naples Federico II, the Weizmann Institute of Science, and the Porter School of the Environment and Earth Sciences describes its analysis and comparison of the efficiency of growing crops (soybeans) and using a food-from-air technique. For several years, researchers around the world have been looking into the idea of growing “food from air”, combining a renewable fuel resource with carbon from the air to create food for a type of bacteria that create edible protein. One such project is Solar Foods in Finland, where researchers have the goal of building a demonstration plant by 2023 and are seeking to compare the efficiency of growing a staple crop, soybeans, with growing food from air. To make their comparisons, the researchers used a food-from-air system that uses solar energy panels to make electricity, which is combined with carbon dioxide from the air to produce food for microbes grown in a bioreactor. The protein the microbes produce is treated to remove nucleic acids, then dried to produce a powder suitable for consumption by humans and animals. In comparing the efficiency of the system with a 10-square-kilometre soybean field, their analysis showed that growing food from air was 10 times as efficient as growing soybeans in the ground. They suggest that the protein produced using the food-from-air approach had twice the caloric value of other crops such as corn, wheat, and rice.

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