The New – Very Expensive – Finnish Food Made From Electricity, Air And Water

A Finnish company has decided that we all actually need is a food that’s ten times more expensive than the ones we already eat. Certainly, that’s the sort of thing that will solve the obesity crisis but it’s not obviously an advance in human civilisation. That civilisation having been driven over the millennia by the manner in which food gets ever cheaper. Meaning that we’ve progressively more income to go do other things rather than provide the three squares. Those other things being the definition of what civilisation is of course.

So, this might not be all that much of an advance:

A Finnish company that makes food from electricity, water and air has said it plans to have 50m meals’ worth of its product sold in supermarkets within two years. Solar Foods is also working with the European Space Agency to supply astronauts on a mission to Mars after devising a method it says creates a protein-heavy product that looks and tastes like wheat flour at a cost of €5 (£4.50) per kilo.

Sure, limited uses, of course. But general? Look at the price there.

And compare. Wheat runs around $250 a tonne out there beyond the EU’s barriers against having cheap food. Wheat to flour (white) is about 70%, ignore exchange rates and that means a kilo of flour is some 40 cents €.

We need something equivalent to flour at 10 x the price do we?

Do also note. If this stuff is more expensive then it uses more resources to make. That’s what makes it more expensive….

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Dodgy Geezer
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Dodgy Geezer

If this stuff is more expensive then it uses more resources to make. That’s what makes it more expensive….

Surely not necessarily true? Marginal cost is the total incurred cost divided by the units made. For any new product on a limited run, R&D costs will be huge, and will make the initial unit cost very expensive. Only if the product becomes successful and achieves the full economies of scale will we be able to see the final price…

Q46
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Q46

The usual method is cost plus one. If it costs, say, 10€ million to make the first one, how much does it cost to make one more? The cost of one more is fixed no matter how many you make. The cost of one more will contain a per unit of production contribution towards indirect costs, such as R&D, plus direct costs such as raw materials. Selling price per unit will be that cost plus mark-up. The cost quoted 5€ looks like it is the cost of ‘one more’, although it is not clear whether ‘cost’ here means cost to… Read more »

Dodgy Geezer
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Dodgy Geezer

Make enough THAT YOU CAN SELL and, if that number is high enough, costs will approach zero. That is true. Like biros, for instance.

Alternatively, use modern technology to drop reproduction costs to zero – like Gutenberg, for instance…

Q46
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Q46

Er… but… isn’t wheat made from water, air and solar energy?

Mohave Greenie
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Mohave Greenie

This is being done for the space program. If they can make an edible hydrocarbon from air, water and electricity, that is a breakthrough. While the price of ~$5.50 a kilo may seem high. In space the price of that kilo is somewhere between $2500 and $8000. You can thank Elon Musk for that low price; a decade ago that would have been an order of magnitude higher.

Ikelos Alex
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What a moot article. Its expensive now because it isn’t being mass produced yet. This journalist needs to look up something called economies of scale. Also, wheat is a really poor example to be comparing it to. Especially since this is a protein rich food more comparable to meat. Which is far more expensive to produce than wheat. But wheat in particular is cheaper than almost any other food. Its a cheap cash crop that grows fast and can stored long term and easily scaled up with minimal labor. And it has virtually no nutritional value because its so streamlined.… Read more »

Andrew Carey
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Andrew Carey

You can’t make food from air, water and electricity. P and K are missing, especially P. N is going to be missing too if the article is taken literally when it says CO2 and H2 will be bubbled through, but I’m pretty sure they will include regular air and this is a Guardian misunderstanding. Oh, a quick check of the Solar Foods web-site shows “nutrients and vitamins” being inserted into their bioprocess. How did the Guardian not notice this, or did they just not care, and quoted from the press release? The researchers claim this “The end product looks and… Read more »

Jonathan Harston
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Jonathan Harston

Greta Thunberg is planning on travelling to visit America, paying the higher fare to go by sea instead of by air because “environment!!!”. Never occurs to her to ponder why going by sea is more expensive than going by air – maybe something to do with sea travel using more resources than going by air?

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

I had a ‘conversation’ with an ecoloon who was proposing that airliners should fly at half-speed in order to ‘save fuel’. I had to point out that manufacturers and airlines take enormous pains to minimise fuel consumption (because it’s one of their biggest costs, not to ‘save the planet’) and flying just below 0.9 mach at 12 km altitude is the way to do it. She wouldn’t believe me, of course.