CO2 for Food and Agriculture

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

CO2 for food and agriculture is a revolutionary approach that utilizes captured carbon dioxide (CO2) to enhance food production and create a more sustainable and circular agricultural system. This innovation transforms CO2, a major contributor to climate change, into a valuable resource for growing crops, cultivating algae, and producing alternative protein sources.

Impact on climate action

CO2 for Food and Agriculture innovation transforms carbon dioxide into valuable resources for food production, significantly reducing emissions from conventional agricultural practices. By harnessing CO2 for sustainable farming inputs, it offers a tangible solution to mitigate climate change while fostering food security and resilience in the face of environmental challenges.


Several key technologies and concepts drive CO2 utilization in food and agriculture:

  • Enhanced Greenhouse Production: Enriching the atmosphere inside greenhouses with CO2 can significantly boost plant growth and yields, as plants utilize CO2 during photosynthesis. This allows for faster growth cycles, larger harvests, and improved crop quality.
  • Precision CO2 Dosing: Advanced sensors and control systems precisely monitor and adjust CO2 levels within greenhouses to meet specific plant needs and optimize growth.
  • Algae Cultivation: Algae have a high capacity for CO2 absorption and can be cultivated using captured CO2 as a feedstock. Algae can be used to produce various food products, including protein powders, omega-3 fatty acids, and even meat alternatives.
  • Microbial Protein Production: Certain microorganisms, like bacteria and yeasts, can consume CO2 during fermentation to create protein-rich biomass, offering a sustainable alternative to traditional animal-based proteins.
  • CO2-Derived Fertilizers: CO2 can be used to create sustainable fertilizers, such as urea, which is essential for plant growth. This reduces reliance on traditional fertilizer production methods that are energy-intensive and can have a significant environmental impact.

TRL : 4-9 (depending on the specific technology and product)

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Closed-Loop Systems: Integrating CO2 capture and utilization systems within greenhouses or vertical farms can create closed-loop environments where CO2 is recycled and reused, minimizing waste and emissions.
  • Vertical Farming Integration: Vertical farms, with their highly controlled environments, are ideal for integrating CO2 enrichment systems and optimizing plant growth using captured CO2.
  • Precision Fermentation: Advancements in synthetic biology and fermentation technology are leading to the development of more efficient and tailored microbial strains for CO2 conversion into specific food ingredients.
  • Algae-Based Food Innovation: Researchers are exploring new and innovative ways to incorporate algae, cultivated using captured CO2, into a variety of food products, including protein bars, snacks, and even meat substitutes.
  • Sustainable Fertilizer Production: Developing energy-efficient and environmentally friendly methods for producing CO2-derived fertilizers is crucial for reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Enhanced Greenhouse CO2 Utilization
  • Precision CO2 Dosing Systems
  • Algae-Based CO2 Absorption
  • Microbial Protein Synthesis from CO2
  • CO2-Derived Fertilizer Innovation
  • Closed-Loop CO2 Recycling
  • Integration in Vertical Farming
  • Advanced Synthetic Biology for CO2 Conversion
  • Algae-Based Food Product Development
  • Tailored Microbial Strains for CO2 Conversion
  • CO2 Utilization in Precision Fermentation
  • CO2-Enriched Plant Growth Systems
  • Vertical Farm CO2 Optimization
  • Fermentation Technology Advancements
  • Sustainable CO2-Derived Fertilizer Production

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Infarm:
    • Technology Focus: Infarm specializes in indoor vertical farming solutions. They utilize CO2 enrichment techniques to enhance plant growth and optimize agricultural productivity in controlled environments.
    • Uniqueness: Infarm stands out for its modular farming units that can be installed in various urban settings, including supermarkets and restaurants. Their approach allows for hyper-localized food production while minimizing transportation emissions.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments include urban consumers, restaurants, grocery stores, and food service providers looking for fresh, locally grown produce year-round.
  • Air Protein:
    • Technology Focus: Air Protein focuses on developing protein-rich food products using CO2 as a feedstock. They leverage microbial fermentation technology to convert CO2 into edible proteins, offering a sustainable alternative to traditional protein sources.
    • Uniqueness: Air Protein’s innovative approach involves harnessing natural processes to produce nutrient-rich food with minimal environmental impact. Their products could revolutionize the food industry by providing scalable, sustainable protein sources.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments might include consumers seeking plant-based or alternative protein sources, as well as food manufacturers and retailers looking to incorporate sustainable ingredients into their products.
  • NovoNutrients:
    • Technology Focus: NovoNutrients focuses on converting industrial CO2 emissions into valuable nutritional supplements for aquaculture and animal feed. They employ microbial biotechnology to produce high-quality protein and other nutrients from CO2 waste streams.
    • Uniqueness: NovoNutrients’ technology offers a dual benefit of reducing CO2 emissions while producing sustainable feed ingredients for aquaculture and livestock farming. Their approach helps address the environmental challenges associated with traditional feed production.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments include aquaculture farms, livestock producers, and feed manufacturers seeking sustainable alternatives to conventional feed ingredients, as well as industries looking to reduce their carbon footprint.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Wageningen University & Research:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Wageningen University & Research are focusing on developing innovative technologies to convert CO2 into value-added products for the food and agriculture sectors. They are exploring various approaches such as microbial fermentation, enzymatic catalysis, and electrochemical conversion to transform CO2 into nutrients, fertilizers, and bioactive compounds.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Wageningen’s research stands out for its holistic approach, which integrates biotechnological, chemical, and agronomic expertise to address the challenges of CO2 utilization in food and agriculture. They are investigating novel microbial strains, enzymes, and reactor designs to optimize the conversion process and maximize product yields.
    • End-use Applications: The research at Wageningen has implications for sustainable agriculture, food security, and environmental conservation. By converting CO2 into valuable inputs such as organic fertilizers, feed additives, and functional ingredients, farmers can improve soil health, crop yields, and nutrient efficiency while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • University of California, Berkeley:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at UC Berkeley are exploring advanced biotechnological and chemical processes to convert CO2 into high-value products for food and agriculture. They are investigating microbial metabolic engineering, synthetic biology, and catalytic conversion techniques to produce proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids from CO2.
    • Uniqueness of Research: UC Berkeley’s research is characterized by its interdisciplinary approach, which combines expertise in molecular biology, biochemistry, and materials science to develop scalable and sustainable CO2 conversion technologies. They are leveraging cutting-edge genetic engineering tools and biomimetic catalysts to create novel biocatalysts and bioreactor systems.
    • End-use Applications: The research at UC Berkeley has broad applications in sustainable agriculture, aquaculture, and alternative protein production. By using CO2 as a feedstock for microbial fermentation or enzymatic conversion, companies can produce eco-friendly fertilizers, animal feeds, and plant-based meat substitutes that offer nutritional benefits and reduce environmental impact.
  • Cornell University:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Cornell University are innovating in the field of CO2 utilization by developing novel bioprocesses and materials for food and agriculture applications. They are exploring bioelectrochemical systems, photocatalytic reactors, and biomimetic membranes to capture and convert CO2 into useful compounds such as sugars, organic acids, and bioactive molecules.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Cornell’s research distinguishes itself through its focus on sustainable and regenerative approaches to CO2 utilization in food and agriculture. They are investigating natural and engineered systems inspired by biological processes to harness solar energy and CO2 for the synthesis of value-added products in an environmentally friendly manner.
    • End-use Applications: The research at Cornell has practical implications for enhancing agricultural productivity, food quality, and environmental sustainability. By integrating CO2 conversion technologies into farming practices and food processing operations, stakeholders can create value-added products, improve resource efficiency, and mitigate climate change impacts.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

CO2 enrichment in greenhouses is already a widely adopted commercial practice. Several startups focusing on other CO2 utilization pathways for food and agriculture are moving towards commercialization:

  • Infarm: Operates vertical farms in several countries, supplying fresh produce to supermarkets and restaurants, and is expanding its operations globally.
  • Solar Foods: This Finnish company uses CO2 and renewable electricity to produce Solein, a single-cell protein, and has built a pilot plant to demonstrate its technology.