How Air-Munching Microbes Could Grow the Fake Meat of the Future

Startups are developing ways to produce meat substitutes from thin air.

By Agnieszka de Sousa
Illustrations by Dorothy Gambrell

October 11, 2021, 9AM EDT

Conventional meat production takes a heavy environmental toll, which has inspired a search for alternative methods to satisfy a growing population’s need for protein while limiting land and water use and carbon emissions. Some of the more interesting experiments, from startups like Air Protein, Solar Foods, and Deep Branch, are based on fermentation. The companies working on this technology are still in early stages, but if they succeed, agriculture will look a lot different in the coming decades than it ever has before.

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