The hunt for novel proteins: Nature’s Fynd raises US$80m to commercialize volcanic microbe-based protein
25 Mar 2020 --- Nature’s Fynd, a food tech company producing a novel protein from a microbe originally discovered in the geothermal springs of Yellowstone’s ancient volcano, has raised US$80 million in Series B funding. The emergent food source cultivated through NASA-backed research is pegged as eco-efficient as it uses only a fraction of the land and water resources required in traditional agriculture. Speaking with FoodIngredientsFirst, the company’s executives detail the efficiency and scalability of fermentation technology, while further elaborating on how the funding will be used to commercialize “new-to-the-world” products.
“We have a novel, simple and highly efficient fermentation method. With one metric ton of starch or simple sugars (inputs), we can produce two metric tons of meat like protein product (output). Because we don’t need rain, sun or soil and can grow 365 days a year, we can scale to many locations and produce globally,” Karuna Rawal, CMO of Nature’s Fynd, says.
“Our funding will be used for commercialization of our branded products into US retailers, marketing and extending our production capacity. We will also be expanding globally into markets like China and India, where we believe the need for sustainable protein sources will be significant over the coming years,” she further details.
Production began earlier this month at Nature’s Fynd’s new 35,000 sq ft manufacturing facility on the site of the historic Union Stockyards in Chicago’s South Side, US. The company is now seeking to commercialize food and beverage products across breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack occasions.
The final protein product contains all nine essential amino acids, making it one of the rare non-animal sources of complete protein. In addition, it includes dietary fiber, calcium and vitamins. It will be introduced to the market as highly versatile with potential to be mixed into alternative meat and dairy products, as well as protein drinks and powders.
“In these challenging times, securing food for our growing population under the immense pressure of climate change becomes even more urgent,” says Thomas Jonas, CEO and Co-Founder of Nature’s Fynd. “We must find new solutions that can both nourish people and nurture the planet. Our innovative technology was developed by studying nature’s own solutions for adapting – and ultimately thriving – in environments with limited resources.
In an exclusive interview with FoodIngredientsFirst, Jonas previously spoke in detail about how the company – then branded as Sustainable Bioproducts – seeks to leverage several long-term macro trends for product success.
The company, which employs 50 people across its Chicago, US, headquarters and its Bozeman, US, R&D center, emerged out of NASA-supported research into organisms that thrive in the extreme environmental conditions of Yellowstone National Park’s geothermal springs. Those springs are part of one of the world’s largest active volcanoes.
Other participants in the funding round include 1955 Capital; Mousse Partners; ADM Ventures, the venture arm of ADM; and Danone Manifesto Ventures, the venture arm of global food and beverage company Danone.
“Nature’s Fynd has a highly efficient solution to help address the climate crisis,” remarks Lila Preston, Co-Head of the Growth Equity strategy at Generation Investment Management. “We have tracked the team and technology for several years and believe this is one of the most scalable platforms to drive true food system sustainability.”
Carmichael Roberts, Member of Breakthrough Energy Ventures, adds, “As global demand for protein increases, we urgently need new solutions that meet our nutritional needs without further damaging the environment.”
Nature’s Fynd further plans to employ more than 100 people by the end of the year. The company chose Chicago, US, as its headquarters for reasons including its “robust food industry, skilled workforce and transportation infrastructure.”
In this funding round, Generation Investment Management and Breakthrough Energy Ventures co-lead the investment.
Appetite for novel proteins
Climate change drives industry’s burgeoning appetite for novel proteins. Innova Market Insights research indicates that on average 85 percent of US and UK consumers expected companies to invest in sustainability in 2019, up from 64 percent in 2018. The market researcher has ranked “The Sustain Domain” as its third top trend for 2020.
FoodIngredientsFirst continues to spotlight a plethora of emergent protein sources, including sustainable bug-based ingredients produced at the world’s largest insect protein factory, cell-based seafood, slaughter-free meat grown in space, microalgae for meat substitutes – and even “meat made from thin air.”
Alternative protein was a key focus for the World Economic Forum 2020, held in Davos, Switzerland. At the gathering of world leaders and industry stakeholders, Tyson Foods – a heavyweight of the meat industry – launched the Coalition for Global Protein, a multi-stakeholder initiative to advance the future of alternative protein sources.
By Benjamin Ferrer
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