Solar Foods, a Finnish-based food-tech company, has won the Index Award, worth €100,000 (US$110,000) funded by the Index Project, a Danish non-profit organization. The company’s award-winning invention, Solein protein, uses carbon dioxide and electricity to produce protein that enables food production entirely without agriculture. In the long-term, this provides a means of growing harvest in a clean environment while using renewable energy for producing food with the lowest possible environmental burden.
Solein is a natural protein produced mainly from air and electricity. Because it can be grown and harvested anywhere – including the middle of a desert or even space – its production minimizes harmful environmental impact, according to the company. Pasi Vainikka, CEO of SolarFoods explains to. “We use gas fermentation instead of sugar, carbon dioxide from the air and hydrogen from electricity, so we entirely eliminate the agricultural factor.”
It was this key element of the product’s potential contribution toward solving global food crisis problems and the overexploitation of natural resources that was awarded. Solein’s amino acid composition resembles that of soy and algae, offering consumers an ethical, clean source of protein without additives. “Researchers must turn the inventions and technologies incubated in laboratories into reality and commercialize them faster to benefit humankind,” says Vainikka.
With its motto “design to improve life,” the biennial Index Award has provided incentives for researchers and entrepreneurs to develop impactful solutions to improve human welfare and the environment since 2005. The total award fund consists of €500,000 (US$551,000) and is divided into five award categories, making it the world’s largest monetary award in its area. All awards are determined by an international jury that is under the patronage of Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark. Former laureates include Microsoft, Xbox and Elon Musk.
Denmark has tasked itself with becoming a carbon-neutral country by 2050. Several Danish companies have been following suit and prioritizing corporate responsibility on an international level. One recent example of Danish innovation include plastic-free spoons and teabags, launched in a bid to rethink the country’s waste problem.