Meet the Woman Who Raised $32 Million for Turning Air into Meat

by Xara Aziz
Maurice Dean/Courtesy of Lisa Dyson

Lisa Dyson’s fascination with space travel was the impetus for her culminating a genius idea that is now turning air into meat.

Dyson is the founder of Air Protein, a California-based business that uses groundbreaking technology to create a meat alternative called Air Meat. The name implies exactly what it consists of: microbes, water, renewable energy and elements found in the air. 

In just four short years since its inception, Air Protein is being deemed revolutionary in the science industry. Using technology based on NASA research from the 60s, she used analysis to explore ways to feed astronauts who embarked on missions to Mars.

“We are leveraging those initial concepts NASA had and picking them up off the shelf,” Dyson told CNN.

The way it works is comparable to how yogurt or cheese is fermented – except instead of ingesting sugar or milk to the microbe cultures, CO2, nitrogen and oxygen are aerated through fermentation tanks, where the culture harvests proteins. These proteins are then cultivated, dried and turned into flour which is then used to make a steak substitute by infusing flavoring and nutrients. 

“NASA scientists always think differently and if we’re going to do something revolutionary and new about climate change, we have to think differently,” Dyson explained. 

Part of what made her idea turn into reality was a visit to New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina. She said the trip forced her to examine ways in which she could help quell the climate crisis.

“Just seeing the devastation of that event and thinking about how climate scientists have been warning us that these weather events are going to become more frequent and more intense. I wanted to be a part of the solution,” she said.

The MIT PhD holder added that she chose to use her science skills in the food sector because “it produces more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector.”

According to a University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign study, the global food industry emits approximately 17.3 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions every year. Those emissions are almost 19 times the amount made from international aviation and roughly 35% of human-related emissions.

Last year alone, Air Protein raised $32 million and will aim to begin selling products in 2024.

“We need to produce food in a way that isn’t suffocating the planet,” Dyson concluded. “We don’t have a choice. I think there’s a bright future when we bring innovation to the equation and change how our food is made.”

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