Innovation That Matters

| Photo source Imperial College London/Thomas Glover

Could 'biosolar leaves' be the future of protein production?

Food & Drink

Panels covered in microalgae and phytoplankton sequester CO2 while producing protein biomass

Spotted: Agriculture and related land use represents around 17 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, global demand for protein is set to rise significantly by 2050, along with the growing population. Meeting this will require innovative approaches to efficiently scale protein production. One such approach is that developed by startup Arborea, which grows microalgae and phytoplankton on solar panel-like structures.

Arborea designed the panels to be placed on buildings, where they absorb CO2 and produce oxygen. The company claims that they do this at a rate equivalent to 100 trees from the surface area of just a single tree. At the same time, the organic biomass produced by the organisms can be harvested and used as additives for plant-based food products.

The company’s Biosolar Leaf technology mimics the function of a real leaf, using CO2 and sunlight as feedstock. But unlike real leaves, the system is able to self-regulate and indefinitely maintain ideal growth conditions with minimal energy inputs – and it doesn’t require fertile land or agricultural feedstocks.

Arborea was spun out of Imperial College London, with grant funding and support from Imperial’s SynbCITE, a synthetic biology and engineering biology industrial accelerator.

Improving food production while reducing carbon emissions is the subject of a number of recent innovations spotted by Springwise. These include an in-house mycelium production system for producing food additives and using acorns as a protein source.

Written By: Lisa Magloff



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