IT has the appearance of wheat flour, but there isn't a grain of cereal used in the milling process. Just microbes and gases from the air. This powder, which has been called the most sustainable protein available, has just been approved for sale in Singapore in 2024.

From farm to fork, production of our food is responsible for 37% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In comparison, the transport sector generates 28%. At a time when the Paris Agreement calls for limiting global warming to +1.5°C, a Finnish research laboratory intends to reduce the carbon footprint of our menus by introducing a protein powder that is developed with single-cell organisms, gases in the air and water.

The whole "bioprocess" takes place in the laboratory: scientists cultivate micro-organisms by feeding them carbon dioxide, hydrogen bubbles and some nutrients.

The process has been compared to fermentation. The stimulation process results in the release of proteins that the researchers can extract and then dehydrate to make a high-protein powder that the Finnish startup Solar Foods is calling Solein. Composed of up to 70% protein, no more than 8% is fat, while the proportion of fiber can represent up to 15%.

This totally futuristic-sounding innovation could in fact be used as a food component for astronauts. The Finnish start-up Solar Foods worked alongside the European Space Agency to develop it from a NASA concept.

This protein flour could replace other sources of protein in a range of foods from pasta, baked goods, snacks and even beverages. It's possible to imagine using 3D printers to create meat alternatives with this protein "flour."

The formula addresses many of today's problems: that of livestock farming, as a major generator of greenhouse gases as well as its issues of animal welfare; plus that of land that gets treated with pesticides and fertilizers to boost the agricultural sector.

The use of this powder could also potentially put an end to food waste. This is why the Solein protein powder is being touted as among the most sustainable yet.

While it might sound like something out of science fiction, the Singaporean health authorities have given this food of the future market approval, with manufacturing and sales set to start in 2024. The Finnish company is now waiting for the recognition of its product as a "novel food" by the European Union.