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This biotech startup is making palm oil-substitutes and omega-3s from carbon emissions

Instead of having more carbon go into the atmosphere, making our planet warmer and speeding up the effects of climate change, you might soon be able to eat those emissions. Biotech company LanzaTech has successfully turned CO2 emissions into lipids and omega-3 fatty acids as part of a pilot program in partnership with India’s Department of Biotechnology and oil and gas company IndianOil.

Lipids and omega-3s are the building blocks to many foods and fuels. By making them out of waste carbon, LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren says, there’s now an opportunity to make a multitude of products—from nutritional supplements to fish feed to vegetable oil replacements to diesel fuel—without using up resources like land and water, and while simultaneously preventing more emissions from being released into the air.

LanzaTech already has a commercial plant running in China that turns carbon emissions from a steel mill into ethanol, which is then used to make fuel. The company intentionally set out to find a way to convert waste carbon into lipids and omega-3s, says Holmgren, because of all the things those molecules could then be used for. By making omega-3s, “that means you’re using CO2 to make nutrition,” she says. Omega-3 fatty acids are found abundantly in fish, and making them from waste carbon could help address overfishing in our oceans. Farmed fish are commonly fed smaller, wild-caught fish, “and the net impact of that,” she adds, “is that you’re actually fishing out our oceans with the purpose of making food for the farming of fish.” With the possibility of making the nutrients required for fish feed from waste carbon, there’s a future in which we can make that food without overtaxing our oceans.

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