Knowledge for better food systems

Edible microorganisms to counteract agricultural expansion

Image: Eva Decker, Moss bioreactor, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 1.0 Generic

This opinion article suggests that microbial biomass from bacteria, yeasts, or fungi could be used as human food and animal feed, with the advantage of using less land compared to conventional crop production, particularly if feedstocks were derived directly from atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Some microorganisms can capture carbon directly from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, but others need to consume an organic feedstock such as methane, methanol or formic acid.

The paper makes a rough estimate that producing bacterial biomass (using methanol derived from the atmosphere as a feedstock, with the process powered by geothermal energy) would use only 0.06% of the land that it would take to produce the same weight of soybeans.

The paper notes that this estimate might change depending on the energy source and its own land use footprint.

 

Reference

Linder, T., 2019. Edible microorganisms–an overlooked technology option to counteract agricultural expansion. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, 3, p.32.

Read the full paper here. See also the Foodsource building block What is land use and land use change?

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While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

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