Plants such as rice, bread, and vegetables on the table or cows and pigs that make meat also feed on feed and grow, so most of the food that goes into the mouth of modern people can be said to be made by plants. According to a new paper published by a research team at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, it is possible to synthesize food more than 10 times more efficiently than crops such as soybeans by culturing microorganisms, not plants, with solar energy.
Food problems are becoming more and more serious due to population growth and dietary changes. It is pointed out that 26% of the land area on Earth and 83% of farmland are used for raising livestock and fodder crops, so the spread of meat-eating food culture greatly increases environmental destruction caused by agriculture. The Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology, which deals with food and environmental issues, pays attention to the microbial protein SCP produced by microorganisms, and energy efficiency when producing microbial protein from renewable energy such as solar power and protein from crops such as soybeans A study was conducted to calculate and compare
Looking at food production by SCPs proposed by the research team, electrical energy obtained from solar power transfers carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to a separation device, and oxygen is produced from this carbon dioxide. The structure of food production by SCP is that, by operating a bioreactor with this oxygen and solar energy, microorganisms are cultivated, and feed for plants and animals is made from the SCP that produced the microorganisms.
After calculating how much food could be produced from a food production method that combined solar power and SCP, it was found that 15 tons of protein per hectare could be produced per year. In fact, it is said that 520 people can get as much protein as they need for a year.
Meanwhile, in the case of soybean, which can produce protein most efficiently, it produces 1.1 tons of protein per year, and the number of people is 40, which is less than one-tenth of the previous production method.
According to the research team, although the focus was on soybean and protein, similar results were obtained when comparing food and microorganisms in various fields, such as palm oil and edible oil production by microorganisms. Microorganisms have a wide range of applications, suggesting that in the future they will be able to produce a variety of foods and products. In addition, since this structure has good land, water and fertilizer efficiency, it can produce food in addition to land with fertile soil with plenty of sunlight. Meanwhile, the cost is several times higher than that of meat, but the cost is expected to come down with technological advancement and dissemination.
The research team says that microbial foods are very promising and will greatly contribute to resolving the food crisis. Also, mycoprotein, developed by British food manufacturer Quorn, has already appeared in an attempt to use protein produced by microorganisms as food. Related information can be found here.