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Finnish firms look to slash emissions from food, drink

Solar Foods has received funding of eight million euros.

Solar Foods

VTT forms a consortium on plant-based proteins, while Aircohol, Fazer and Solar Foods receive funding for efforts to cut emissions from food and drink.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has formed a consortium with seven food industry companies to develop new value chains for plant-based proteins with the help of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

The consortium has launched a series of projects to address challenges related to building a more sustainable food system.

The research institute highlighted that the soya and wheat-based proteins that presently dominate the market are produced with sub-optimal processes: the dry fractionation methods fail to produce ingredients with ideal functionalities, whereas the wet separation process uses excessive amounts of chemicals, energy and water.

Greater attention, it added, should also be paid to the taste and texture of plant-based products and the elements contributing to sensory qualities in order to bring about the necessary change at the necessary scale.

“Intensive flavour, such as bitterness, astringency and [bean] or chemical-like flavour, is still an issue limiting the consumption of foods manufactured with plant protein-rich ingredients,” stated Emilia Nordlund, project leader at VTT. “We will explore processing strategies to mitigate the off-flavour issues, for example, [by] optimising the extraction process to limit the production of unfavourable compounds as well as purifying and modifying the protein ingredient to reduce the content of off-flavour compounds.”

The three-year project is expected to yield new ingredient solutions that, along with protein, contain dietary fibres, plant oil and bioactive compounds, consequently promoting public health.

The soya and wheat-based proteins that are currently available are made with sub-optimal production processes and often leave consumers wanting more in terms of sensory quality, argues VTT.


It can also improve food security by supporting a shift away from highly centralised food supply chains toward local value chains and ecosystems – a shift that has the potential to contribute to the revitalisation of rural areas, envisaged Nordlund.

The project is also expected to produce predictive models to support research, development and innovation related to plant-based proteins. The models rest on previous projects that demonstrated the feasibility of hyperspectral imaging for identifying suitable raw materials and established a methodological basis for predicting the quality parameters of oat.

Nordlund revealed that the aim is to refine the models into a tool for identifying suitable raw materials for various food processes by combining quality predictions with flavour data.

The industrial members of the consortium are AnoraApetitFazerHelsinki MillsRaisioValio and Viking Malt. The project has been allocated three million euros in funding by Business Finland.

With consumer interest in plant-based food products increasing, the value of the plant-based food market is forecast to soar from 45–50 billion to 160 billion euros by 2030, according to VTT.

Protein from fields and thin air

Solar Foods in November announced the closing of its first funding round, revealing that investors have padded its coffers with eight million euros.

The food technology startup said the round was a remarkable success as it was closed almost two weeks ahead of schedule for reaching capacity and becoming over-subscribed.

The funding will go toward ramping up production at the first commercial-scale production facility of Solar Foods, Factory 01. It will also be used to utilise new production organisms and commercialise Solein, a protein derived from a natural, non-modified single-cell organism that is cultivated through fermentation. The organism is grown not dissimilarly to a plant, except that instead of water and fertiliser it requires only air and electricity.

“This is more than a financial boost,” viewed CEO Pasi Vainikka.

“[I]t’s a mark of confidence in the future of sustainable food solutions that Solar Foods represents. We are excited to channel these resources into our new factory and amplify our impact in the food industry.”

Fazer unveiled last month a new oat-based protein made from oat dregs or okara, a by-product of oat drink production that, in spite of its nutritional value, has previously been used as animal feed and raw material for biogas.

Fazer has developed a protein made from oat dregs or okara that, thanks to its nutritional value and mild flavour, has a number of applications in food production.


The food industry giant pointed out that oat dregs contain not only protein but also a sundry of other good ingredients, including fibre, minerals, beta-glucan, vitamins and health fats. Their mild flavour, meanwhile, makes oat dregs ideal for food products such as cereals, energy bars, recovery drinks, protein powders, plant-based gurts and meat substitutes.

“Oat protein is a well digested plant protein that, together with legumes, forms a complete protein composition. Oat protein also contains iron, a critical component in a plant-based diet,” highlighted Marika Laaksonen, senior manager of nutrition at Fazer.

Fazer has committed to reducing food waste by 50 per cent by 2030, a commitment that earlier this year saw it launch a research and development programme aimed at boosting the utilisation of side streams and surpluses.

From CO2 to RCH2OH

Aircohol has set out to improve the sustainability of another area of the food industry, alcoholic beverages.

The Finnish startup recently raised 2.4 million euros for expanding the reach of its proprietary technology that produces drinkable alcohol from the carbon dioxide released during the fermentation of alcoholic beverages, promising to more than halve the carbon footprint of alcoholic beverages. It works by creating an optimised growth environment for a process that bypasses the need for agricultural ingredients, thus eliminating the carbon footprint of ingredients such as beets or grains.

The technology, it said, is weather and location-agnostic and can be integrated seamlessly into existing brewery and distillery processes to create a “sustainable carbon loop”.

Finland’s Aircohol has developed a technology that enables the production of alcohol from carbon dioxide that is generated by breweries and distilleries.

Elevate / Pexels

“I am extremely proud of what we’ve achieved with our top-notch team in such a short time,” Simo Hämäläinen, CEO of Aircohol, commented in a press release. “We are already scaling towards industrial production to introduce these revolutionary sustainable drinks to consumers.”

The technology has been adopted by Brukett in Finland.

“Collaborating with Aircohol aligns directly with our strategy: we want to take innovative and transformative steps to reduce the environmental impacts of our operations,” remarked Mikko Ali-Melkkilä, CEO of Brukett.

Aircohol has laid out plans to expand to industrial scale and start producing what it calls the world’s most sustainable beverages as soon as next year.

A farming revolution on horizon

Scientists at Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) reported recently that they have discovered that cucumbers, pole beans and other crops can be grown horizontally to increase yields and efficiency.

“Luke is now looking for a partner to launch the highly advanced technology on the crop production market of the future,” said Pauli Saarenketo, intellectual property rights manager at Luke.

By: Aleksi Teivainen