Nature’s Fynd creates versatile alternative proteins born out of research conducted for NASA on microbes with origins in Yellowstone National Park, culminating in breakthrough fermentation technology and the new-to-the-world nutritional fungi protein “Fy”, for which it has raised an incredible $500M to date.
“The endless possibilities of our fungi protein is what fuels our team’s enthusiasm for the fungiverse”
It came as no surprise to hear the news last week that Nature’s Fynd was awarded a $4.76 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as the Chicago-based fermentation specialists are no doubt operating at the forefront of the alt protein food tech revolution.
It has been two years since we last spoke with CMO Karuna Rawal, so it was time to catch up and learn more about the company’s most recent impressive achievements.
Where and how was Nature’s Fynd conceived?
Our founding team, a group of explorers, scientists, and optimists researching extreme life for NASA at Yellowstone National Park, discovered a remarkable, naturally occurring microorganism in 2009.
Using our proprietary fermentation technology, we grow this microbe into Fy™, a nutritional fungi protein, that we now make into Meatless Breakfast Patties and Dairy-Free Cream Cheese.
Nature’s Fynd describes itself as a “food company for optimists” – what is the story behind the line?
Since discovering a tiny microbe with origins in Yellowstone National Park, our optimism continues to be fueled by the power of nature—for something so small to nourish so much life. And since we only have one planet to call home and an exponentially growing population of resource-hungry humans, we know that feeding everyone will take some ingenious solutions.
“our optimism continues to be fueled by the power of nature”
The kind of optimism that stares down humanity’s biggest challenges and says, “We can solve that”, is what inspired our tagline, “Feed your Optimism”, which embodies our brand and counters the doom and gloom we all hear about climate change.
We know that changing the food system is hard work and demands innovative solutions, but we know that changing how we eat is something every one of us can do to mitigate the impact of climate change. And there are millions of people out there, especially our core consumers whom we call “optimistic advocates,” looking for ways that they can positively impact the planet because they understand the connection between the food we all eat and climate change.
Please describe your current product range and what makes it special.
The foods we make with Fy span both dairy and meat categories, a standout characteristic in the food industry. Also, in contrast to other alternative proteins, Fy is a complete vegan protein, and truly a nutritional powerhouse. It contains all nine essential amino acids, has vitamins and minerals, and is a good source of fiber, including both beta-glucans and prebiotic fiber, which are known to support immune and digestive health.
“Fy is a complete vegan protein, and truly a nutritional powerhouse”
Fy boasts a higher protein digestibility score than peas, peanuts, and many other plant-based proteins; and contains twice as much protein as raw peas and 50% more than tofu. Fy is also differentiated by what it lacks— it’s produced without the use of antibiotics, hormones, or pesticides, and is non-GMO. The neutral taste and natural texture of Fy provide a perfect canvas for creating our delicious, sustainable meatless, and dairy-free foods.
Do you think we are seeing fungi as the third wave of protein – following animals and plants?
Absolutely. Here’s why—we have relied for over 11,000 years on a small group of animals and plants to feed ourselves but as planetary resources become scarcer with the impact of climate change and our population heading toward 10 billion, we need new solutions. Fungi as a source of protein offer a shortcut through the food chain because they don’t require the acres of land or water needed to support plant growth or animal grazing, making fungi-based protein more efficient to produce than other options.
“Fungi as a source of protein offer a shortcut through the food chain”
Our proprietary fermentation technique complements the natural properties of Fusarium strain flavolapis to grow Fy™, our nutritional fungi protein. Rather than isolating protein like many plant-based proteins, we are growing a net-new protein. We feed our fungi simple nutrients in a tray-based system to grow dense networks of mycelium that become the base product of our fungi-based foods.
Also critical is that Fy, our fungi-based protein, can be grown anywhere—from a densely populated city like Chicago to remote areas with protein deficits enabling us to grow food where people live versus having to transport it across the country or globe.
How is the Nature’s Fynd fermentation method unique within the fermentation industry?
We’ve developed a proprietary fermentation method to grow Fy™, a new-to-the-world protein that can efficiently and deliciously feed the world without traditional agriculture’s massive demands on land, water, and energy. Our process, called liquid-air interface fermentation, grows Fy™ indoors using a simple tray-based system in a matter of days, making it 3.6x more efficient than animal sources and 1.4x more efficient than plant sources in generating protein per acre of land. In addition, our technology has created a volume-driven production system that is not limited by area.
Over the coming years, we’re excited to bring this scalable, modular technology to other countries so we can produce nourishing food for people near where they live, further reducing emissions from transporting food across the world.
What part of the “fungiverse” are you most excited about as a company?
The endless possibilities of Fy, our nutritional fungi protein, is what fuels our team’s enthusiasm for the fungiverse. Not only is Fy nutritious and sustainable, but it’s also extremely versatile in terms of texture and taste.
Fy can be turned into everything from a powder to a liquid and from there, into just about anything delicious you can imagine across a variety of cuisines and eating occasions. Because of Fy’s versatility and neutral flavor profile, we can make anything from our Meatless Breakfast Patties and Dairy-Free Cream Cheese, which are currently on the market, to a full range of innovative, delicious meatless and dairy-free products with Fy.
“Fy can be turned into everything from a powder to a liquid and from there, into just about anything delicious you can imagine”
Where can the products be found and how many units are you selling? What about in the future?
Right now our Meatless Original Breakfast Patties are available at over 180 Whole Food Market stores in CA, HI, AZ, ID, NV, WA, OR, NY, NJ, and CT. Additionally, our Meatless Original Breakfast Patties, Meatless Maple Flavored Breakfast Patties, Dairy-Free Original Cream Cheese, and Dairy-Free Chive & Onion Cream Cheese are available in New York City at Fairway Market, Chicago at Mariano’s Market, and Berkeley Bowl in Northern California.
We’re excited to bring Nature’s Fynd to more consumers across America in 2022.