The What Project?
The Soya Project is the ancestor to CEA Proteins. It's where the ideas started. Since then I've had many conversations with many people. I've learned huge amounts. But most importantly, it has become ever more clear to me that alternative proteins in CEA are bigger than just Soy. Still, I'm keeping this page for now, as a reminder of where I began with it!
The Problems With Current Soy Growing
Land use, deforestation, biodiversity loss, pesticides, fungicides, fertiliser run-off & aquatic dead zones, soil damage, carbon emissions, loss of ecosystem services, social & community harms... the list of problems associated with conventional mass-scale monocultural farming of commodity crops is both long and deeply worrying.
It's clear that things can't continue as they have done up to now. Whilst efforts are being made to reduce these harms in a variety of ways, the potential role of vertically farmed soy has not been adequately considered - which is what we want to change!
The Potential Of Vertically Farming Soy
Vertical farming has rapidly advanced in recent years. It offers a way to grow food that uses vastly less water, no pesticides, minimal waste and huge yields per growing area. It is also entirely independent of the weather and can be sited pretty much anywhere. As a result, vertical farming has a real claim to aid both the sustainability and the resilience of our food systems.
However, due to a combination of the high costs of set up and operation, and the significant energy use, it has thus far been limited to mostly leafy greens and some soft fruits. These challenges are equally as real as the potential gains. So it is often claimed that vertical farming can only play a small role in food systems.
However, if we were to really want to make an impact of the big food system issues - land use & change, biodiversity & conservation, resource use - we have to look to the big staple commodity crops. Of those, the one that we think is most likely to work in CEA and vertical farming is soy. It's not a massive plant, it's mostly leafy and green, that sort of thing. It's also grown in simply staggering quantities and the harms caused by that are well established.
So if we could grow soy in vertical farms, we could drastically reduce the land & resource use impact of growing soy! We could even help alleviate the competition between land-sparing (e.g. agroforestry) and land-sharing (e.g. rewilding)
The thing is, those challenges of cost and energy use aren't going to go away. In fact for a low-margin, low-profit crop like soy, they are even more of an issue. However if we can solve these vertical farming & CEA challenges for soy, we can solve them for anything!