But what about wood?
According to Arbiom, an agtech ingredient development company, wood is ready for prime time as a human-consumable source of protein. In a press release, the company said its first commercialized product, SylPro, recently completed a proof-of-concept study in which it replaced a variety of plant-based alternatives such as soy, pea and wheat gluten “without compromising taste or product quality”.
Arbiom says that SylPro could replace plant-based alternatives like wheat, which can act as an allergen, in functional roles such as binding.
Arbiom’s technology works by converting wood substrates into single-cell protein microorganisms through the process of fermentation. Up to this point, the technology had been used to make only animal feed, but this month’s news is the first indication that Arbiom’s technology can be used to convert wood into human food.
The company’s been working on making wood a source of protein for years. It first created a wood pre-treatment concept lab in 2011 and in 2017, it formed the European Union funded SYLFEED Consortium with a €9M grant to develop a wood-to-food ecosystem built around Arbiom’s technology.
There’s no doubt that trees could be a plentiful source of input material when it comes to making food, but any talk of wood as a food source needs to be balanced against concerns of deforestation. Deforestation continues to be a concern around the world, mostly due to the use of trees as construction material, fuel, and through clearing for agriculture. According to Arbiom, SylPro’s impact would be negligible in part because it gets its raw material from excess material derived from the wood processing and paper production industry.
Looking forward, wood might make it into other types besides your plant-based burger. SylPro is part of another European Union project launched last year called Next-Gen Proteins that is looking to put alternative non-animal protein inputs into products like baked goods, sports nutrition and 3D printed foods.