Solar Foods, an air-protein company based out of Finland, announced this week it has closed out its Series A round with €15 million (~$17.8 million USD) in new financing. The investment was led by Fazar Group with participation from Bridford Investments Limited, Agronomics Limited, Lifeline Ventures, and CPT Capital. It brings the entire Series A round to €18.5 million, and Solar Foods’ total funding to $24.9 million (USD).
The company says this new funding round will enable it to move forward with the commercialization of Solein, its edible protein made from air and electricity. Also known in the food tech vernacular as “air protein,” this approach involves capturing carbon dioxide from the air and combining it with bacteria to form single-celled proteins.
Solar Foods plans to produce its own consumer-facing food items out of this protein, and is building out a new production facility in order to do that. The new funds will go towards making that facility, which Solar says is in the permitting stage, a reality. Per this week’s press release, this forthcoming facility is “designed to include the Solein Experience Hub and a future-food bar to provide citizens with an entirely new level of transparency in food production.”
Sci-fi as it may sound, there are are some benefits to protein made from air that make it a noteworthy new entrant to the alt-protein space. For starters, it doesn’t use any finite environmental resources like land or water, nor does it rely on animals in any way. It can also be produced anywhere in the world, including tough arctic or desert climates, because the processes isn’t dependent on outdoor elements.
Solar Foods’ main competitor right now is a U.S.-based company simply called Air Protein that uses a similar approach to creating, uh, air protein. Unlike Solar, however, Air Protein is exploring B2B partnerships in foodservice along with retail opportunities.
All that said, the air protein space is so new it will be a little while yet before we’re buying energy bars, powders, and other items made with the stuff. For its part, Solar Foods says it expects its production plant to be operational by 2022, and to commercialize Solein in the fourth quarter of that year.
At last check, the whole of the alternative protein space has received over $1 billion in investment so far in 2020, with over $907 million going to plant-based protein and more than $290 million to cell-based protein. Air protein does not yet have its own special designation as a cateogry. But if companies like Solar can reach their milestones around commercialization and get their products onto consumers’ plates, that could change, and sooner rather than later.