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Solar Foods starts Factory01

Finnish Solar Foods Oy has started microbial production of its protein powder Solein in Factory 01, Solar Foods’ first commercial-scale production facility in Vantaa, Finland.

Following market authorisation in Singapore two years ago, the Finnish company Solar Foods Oy and the Japanese food giant Ajinomoto Group want to start marketing of the microbially produced protein powder Solein across Asia. Today seven-year-old Solar Foods announced the official start of its commercial scale Factory01 in Vantaa. Solein is produced by the microorganisms using CO2 as a carbon and H2 as an energy source.

Following the market launch, Solar Foods has provided the novel ingredient for limited-edition food products and test marketing in Singapore, such as a Solein-powered snack bar and a Solein chocolate ice. Solar Foods estimates Factory 01 will ramp up Solein’s annual production up to a maximum of 160 tons.

“We will be able to deliver quantities that allow food producers for the first time to create large batches of Solein-powered products. While we have been able to offer consumers a small taste, finding a Solein-based food in your local supermarket has not been possible. Soon it will be”, Solar Foods’ CEO and co-founder Pasi Vainikka stressed.

According to the company, Factory 01’s bioreactor grows the same amount of Solein protein per day as a 300-cow dairy farm would produce milk protein – and does this all while being entirely decoupled from the demands and environmental stresses of traditional agriculture.

Factory 01 is part of Solar Foods’ €600 million investment programme that started in September 2022 notified as a hydrogen IPCEI project with a maximum state aid of €110m; the company received the first grant of €34 million in December of the same year.

According to Vainikka the global protein market is a two trillion euro business “and we have shown that Solein has a place within that market.” In May 2023, Solar Foods agreed on a strategic alliance to develop and test market Solein-based products in Singapore with the Japanese food giant Ajinomoto Group. The two companies are also looking to expand their cooperation to countries and regions beyond Singapore.

Solar Foods is seeking novel food regulatory approvals for Solein on several key markets, including the EU, the UK, and the United States. The company’s aim is to enter the United States market in late 2024. A feedback from Europe’s food watchdog EFSA is expected in this month.

Solein can be used to replace existing proteins in a variety of foods, for example in alternative dairy and meat, different snacks and beverages, noodles and pasta, or breads and spreads. The single cell protein that is produced by growing microorganisms is a novel food disconnected from the limits of traditional agriculture. This type of production method has the potential to transform the sustainability, availability, and transparency of what we eat and where food can be produced.

Solein is produced using a bioprocess where microbes are fed with carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and oxygen gas and small amounts of nutrients. Solein is 65-70% protein, 5-8% fat, 10-15% dietary fibres and 3-5% mineral nutrients. According to Solar Foods, the macronutrient composition of Solein cells is very similar to that of dried soy or algae. Solein provides iron and B vitamins and can be used with a wide variety of other ingredients: it vanishes into foods and doesn’t change the taste of familiar, everyday food products.