The round was led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 and joined by new investors including Blackstone Strategic Partners, Balyasny Asset Management, Hillhouse Investment, EDBI, SK Inc. and Hongkou with continued support from existing investors, said CEO Thomas Jonas.
“In the past year, we showed that we can grow Fy [a protein-packed fungi ingredient from a naturally-occurring micro-organism – Fusarium strain flavolapis – with origins in the geothermal springs of Yellowstone National Park] at commercial scale leveraging robotics and automation in our new state-of-the-art facility in Chicago’s historic Union Stockyard.
“In 2022, we will bring our branded Fy based foods to consumers in the US, expand to new geographies with a special focus on Asia where there is substantial demand and need for sustainable protein and create multiple brand-aligned partnerships for retail, quick serve restaurants, and emerging high growth channels.”
Meatless breakfast patties, dairy-free cream cheese
Part of a third wave of ingredients in the ‘alternative protein’ space that is not plant-based or cell-cultured, but made via microbial fermentation, Nature’s Fynd is not, however, using genetic engineering (eg. synthetic biology to ‘program’ microbes to produce target molecules).
Instead, it is working with Non GMO fungi strains that naturally produce high levels of complete protein when grown in a controlled environment. Rather than extracting the protein to make a concentrate or isolate, Nature’s Fynd is producing a whole food ingredient, said the company, which recently tested the market with a limited edition launch of meatless breakfast patties and dairy-free cream cheese.
Microbes are more efficient than animals and many plants at producing protein
Right now, producing protein – whether from peas and soybeans or cows and chickens – is resource-intensive and time-consuming, requiring large amounts of land, energy and water, according to Nature’s Fynd CEO Thomas Jonas, who like to point out that it can take years to grow animals, and months or years to grow plants, while microbes “can double their biomass in a matter of hours and the ‘growing season’ is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.”
What makes the ‘extremophile’ Fusarium flavolapis strain alluring as a potential food source is that it has evolved to do more with less – that is, it can produce high quality protein with minimal inputs very efficiently in a highly acidic environment, which “drastically reduces” the risk of contamination and enhances food safety, claimed Jonas.
Attractive PDCAAS score, lower environmental inputs
In its GRAS notice, the company explains that Fy protein has a PDCAAS score of 0.92 (higher than plant proteins such as pea), providing “all the essential amino acids and significant amounts of dietary fiber.”
According to the company, a life cycle analysis suggests that Fy emits roughly 99% fewer greenhouse gases, and uses 99% less land, and 87% less water than growing beef, with no methane emissions, and minimal waste.
Nature’s Fynd (previously known as Sustainable Bioproducts) received a coveted ‘no questions’ letter from the FDA in response to its GRAS safety determination for its ‘Fy’ fungi ingredient in March.