A1 Journal article (refereed), original research

A life cycle environmental sustainability analysis of microbial protein
production via power-to-food approaches

Open Access hybrid publication

Publication Details
Authors: Sillman J., Uusitalo V., Ruuskanen V., Ojala L., Kahiluoto H., Soukka R., Ahola J.
Publisher: Springer Verlag (Germany)
Publication year: 2020
Language: English
Related Journal or Series Information: International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
ISSN: 0948-3349
eISSN: 1614-7502
JUFO-Level of this publication: 2
Open Access: Open Access hybrid publication
Location of the parallel saved publication: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi-fe2020092976179



energy produced from wind turbines and solar photovoltaics (PV) has rapidly increased its share in global energy markets. At the same
time, interest in producing hydrocarbons via power-to-X (PtX) approaches using
renewables has grown as the technology has matured. However, there exists
knowledge gaps related to environmental impacts of some PtX approaches. Power-to-Food
(PtF) application is one of those approaches. To evaluate the environmental
impacts of different PtF approaches, life cycle assessment was performed.


environmental potential of novel concept of PtX technologies was investigated. Because
PtX approaches have usually multiple technological solutions, such as the
studied PtF application can have, several technological setups were chosen for
the study. PtF application is seen as potentially being able to
alleviate concerns about the sustainability of the global food sector, for
example, as regards the land and water use impacts of food production. This
study investigated four different environmental impact categories for microbial
protein (MP) production via different technological setups of PtF from
gradle-to-gate perspective. The investigated impact
categories include
global warming potential, blue water use, land use and
eutrophication. The research was carried out using a life cycle impact
assessment method.

Results and discussion

The results for PtF processes were compared to the
impacts of other MP production technologies and soybean production. The results
indicate that significantly lower environmental impact can be achieved with PtF
compared to the other protein production processes studied. The best-case PtF
technology set-ups cause considerably lower land occupation, eutrophication and
blue water consumption impacts compared to soybean production. However, the
energy source used and the electricity-to-biomass efficiency of the bioreactor
greatly affect the sustainability of the PtF approach. Some energy sources and
technological choices result in higher environmental impacts than other MP and
soybean production. When designing PtF production facilities, special attention
should thus be given to the technology used.


With some qualifications, PtF can be considered an
option for improving global food security at minimal environmental impact. If
the MP via the introduced application substitutes the most harmful practices of
production other protein sources, the saved resources could be used to, for
example, mitigation purposes or to improve food security elsewhere. However,
there still exists challenges, such as food safety related issues, to be solved
before PtF application can be used for commercial use.

Last updated on 2020-02-10 at 09:32