Factory 01 begins the season of new harvests


Solar Foods was established at the tail end of 2017. For a little more than six years, we have been building towards today, working through several milestones towards a major one: the opening of Factory 01, the world’s first true factory to grow food out thin air. 

To survive amidst climate change – and to hopefully prosper despite adverse conditions – humanity must complete the green transition in all walks of life. 

Our novel protein Solein®, grown out of microbes with the help of electricity and CO2, is a component in the green transition of the food sector. The newly opened Factory 01 and scaling up this component’s production is, at its heart, about industrialising the means and tools of that vital transition.  

Factory 01 allows us to ramp up Solein production to 160 tons annually. Depending on how much of the novel protein would be required per serving, this translates to 5-8 million Solein-powered meals. That is still a drop in the ocean globally speaking, but it makes it possible for us to introduce an entirely new food to the world – and more than just a select few will get to taste it.  


A window into the global food system’s future 

Factory 01 is in many ways a case study about how the food industry – and by extension, the global food system – is changing step by step. The world is entering an era where we will be growing protein under one roof from start to finish without any link to traditional agriculture and its methods.  

Factory 01 does not need to hope for good weather for Solein to grow. The facility incorporates state-of-the-art technology into protein production, including an electrolyser that splits water into oxygen and hydrogen, and DAC (Direct Air Capture) technology that extracts carbon dioxide directly from ambient air. Carbon dioxide gives the bioprocess its source of carbon, while the hydrogen produced by the electrolyser powers it.  

The result is multiplying microbes that become Solein: calories growing out of electricity, a bountiful harvest born out of thin air. Unplugging food production from the requirement of fertile fields, large bodies of water and photosynthesis opens a whole new world of possibilities. Protein can be grown anywhere so long as there is energy: with solar power in the Sahara, with wind-generated electricity in the Arctic, with any sustainable power available in megacities. Removed from the demands of traditional agriculture, Solein could be grown even in outer space.  

Just half an hour from the center of Helsinki, Factory 01 looks unassuming on the outside…
…but within pumps a strong heart: the 20,000 litre bioreactor tirelessly growing Solein.

One aspect depicting the nature of this is change is the estimate of the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) that says cellular agriculture could by 2035 grow to a half a billion-euro industry in Finland alone. Another notable point underlining the shifting seas of our food system is that while Solar Foods produces a novel food, we are tightly linked to the new European hydrogen economy. In fact, Factory 01 is at the frontline of the European innovation system: it is a European Commission’s hydrogen IPCEI (Important Project of Common European Interest) project.  

We couldn’t have done it alone 

There are many people who deserve our gratitude for having shared our founding team’s vision for the future of food and made our shared road to Factory 01 possible.  

Our funding path has not been typical for a company of our kind. Many modern startups work with software and digital applications, but Solar Foods needs to build an industrial facility to show our product works and can be produced according to our vision. Formulating an entirely new industrial process or even recreating an existing one – i.e., building factories – is an expensive endeavour.  

On the Finnish market, capital is very scarce for growth companies looking to do this. We have, however, been lucky enough to have investors both big and small who have believed in and shared our vision. The largest single investment in the project is by the hydrogen IPCEI through a grant funding decision by Business Finland. Together they have all made the approximately €42 million effort that is Factory 01 possible.  

Factory 01 has also been an incredibly multidisciplinary effort. The Solar Foods team has come from a wide variety of different backgrounds, expertises and disciplines to work on a common goal. Mastering any one part of what has made Factory 01 possible is hard: the biology, the bioprocess, the regulatory requirements, food product development and the commercialization of a novel product… but to ensure all these fields come together and work seamlessly as something bigger than the sum of their parts has taken laser-like focus and dedication from everyone. 

Solein is a highly functional ingredient, vanishing into familiar foods without changing their beloved tastes.

And now we scale it 

Any food brand must answer three core questions to be viable. One: is your product safe? Two: does your product work as a food ingredient? Three: does your product scale? If the product is safe, you get to produce and sell it; if your product works, you will have a market for it; and if your product scales, it can make an impact. 

Solein has received a novel food regulatory approval in Singapore and several limited-edition Solein-powered food products have already been launched. So, we have already answered the first two questions: yes, Solein is safe and yes, it does work. 

With Factory 01, we have answered the third question: does it scale? Yes, it does.