“The plant-based protein market has two new contenders with the launch of the first products from food-tech startup Nature’s Fynd: dairy-free cream cheese and meatless breakfast patties, both made from a fungi protein with roots in Yellowstone National Park’s volcanic springs.
The fungi-protein derived from a microbe called Fusarium strain flavolapis was discovered on a research trip to Yellowstone, where he was looking for extremophiles (microorganisms that can survive extreme conditions that would be inhospitable to other life-forms) as part of work supported by the National Science Foundation and NASA.
“It’s an organism that is a master adapter,” says CEO and cofounder Thomas Jonas. “It has adapted to this incredible environment, and what it’s had to do—which is something that I think is very relevant to where we are today—is that it has learned to do more with less. It’s learned to adapt to an environment where there were very limited resources.”
Nature’s Fynd grows and ferments the Fy, which is fed with carbohydrates, on trays. Once harvested, it comes out in sheets that resemble chicken breast. “It naturally has a filament structure that kind of mimics muscle filaments,” Jonas says. This process, which creates a complete protein with all the essential amino acids, requires 99% less land and 87% less water than beef production, while emitting 99% fewer greenhouse gases.
Jonas believes this fungi protein could be the new soy: a building block for an entire catalog of meat and dairy alternatives. “Just like you can have soy milk, a soy burger, a soy nugget, we can do all of these adaptations,” he says.