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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A startup is working on technology that produces protein from the elements found in air.

Why it matters: "The world will struggle to feed billions more people by mid-century without clearing more land for farming or livestock. Being able to generate nutrition protein with little more than energy and air could open the door to sustainable vertical farms.

What's happening: On Thursday the startup Air Protein pulled in $32 million in a Series A fundraising round led by the corporate venture capital arm of ag giant Archer Daniels Midland.

How it works: Air Protein takes the basic elements in air — carbon dioxide, oxygen and nitrogen — and combines them with water and minerals, before using renewable energy and probiotics in fermentation vessels to yield amino acids.

  • "We end up with a flour that is rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals," says Lisa Dyson, a physicist and the founder and CEO of Air Protein.
  • Those amino acids can then be sculpted using pressure and temperature to gain the same flavor and texture as meat, she adds.

Details: Unlike conventional livestock raising — which now takes up more than a quarter of the planet's terrestrial surface — Air Protein's technology doesn't require arable land and can be "deployed anywhere in any climate," says Dyson. "This is massively scalable."

But, but, but: While other players in the alternative protein sector are already selling to consumers or at least operating pilot plants, Air Protein's technology is still in the earliest stages.

The bottom line: There's no such thing as a free lunch, but being able to make protein out of thin air would be pretty close.

Go deeper: Meat grown from cells moves out of the lab

Go deeper

The podcast business is booming, but few are making money

Data: PwC Global Entertainment & Media Outlook; Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Nearly every major media and entertainment company is pouring lots of cash into launching new podcasts. But many of them aren't making big money — at least not yet.

Why it matters: As is the case with most new technologies, when it comes to podcasts, consumer adoption has outpaced monetization.

Amy Harder, author of Generate
30 mins ago - Energy & Environment
Column / Harder Line

Biden ushers in historical turn on clean energy and climate change

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Like the curve of Earth we can’t see from the ground, we’re on a curve in history that we won’t fully recognize until decades in the future.

Driving the news: The inauguration of President Biden completes an economic and political consensus that climate change is an urgent threat the world should aggressively address. Whether this consensus produces action remains deeply uncertain.

Updated 9 hours ago - World

Mexican President López Obrador tests positive for coronavirus

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a press conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, on Wednesday. Photo: Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Sunday evening that he's tested positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: López Obrador tweeted that he has mild symptoms and is receiving medical treatment. "As always, I am optimistic," he added. "We will all move forward."