By 2050, the world’s population is estimated to hit 10 billion, and food production will need to increase by 70 percent. Traditional farming won’t be able to keep up. Lisa Dyson, who holds three degrees in physics, including a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Boston, knows the reason: ubiquitous carbon dioxide. This byproduct of burning fossil fuels is a known culprit in climate change.
Dyson is revolutionizing the way protein is made. “We have a lot of work to do,” she says. Several years ago, she and colleague John Reed began came across NASA reports from the 1960s and ’70s that discussed using microbes to recycle carbon dioxide aboard spacecraft. “We were fascinated by their research. We wondered if we could develop a similar technology that would enable us to recycle carbon dioxide into valuable products here on Earth,” Dyson says.
Their startup, Kiverdi, uses microbes to transform carbon into bio-based products in special bio-reactors similar to the giant urns used to brew beer. This year, they’re commercializing a new process to transform CO2 into protein powder. The end product, Planet+Protein, is packed with essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals.