Nature’s Fynd, a startup that produces alternative meat and dairy products, announced Tuesday that it raised $80 million in new funding.
In 2008, the company’s CSO and co-founder Dr. Mark Kozubel was researching extreme life for NASA in the geothermal hot springs of Yellowstone National Park’s supervolcano when he discovered a microorganism he later called Fusarium strain yellowstonensis. He collected a sample and, through fermentation, was able to produce a protein called Fy, which his company now uses to produce its food.
Fy is special for several reasons. For one, it is nutritious because it is a “complete protein,” meaning it contains all nine amino acids and is rich in fiber, calcium and vitamins. It is also more efficient and eco-friendly to produce than traditional sources of meat and dairy products.
“We really don’t need rain, sun or soil. We’re putting a plant on the South Side of Chicago, but we could just as easily be in Mumbai or in Singapore or any other part of the world because our technology is extremely scalable and doesn’t require a lot of other natural resources,” CMO Karuna Rawal told Built In. “That’s a significant difference as you think about animals and plants and how long it takes to go from one cow to two cows or to harvest a crop. There’s a significant amount of time involved there and, obviously, a lot of other natural conditions have to be right. It’s just something else that makes us an attractive choice for consumers.”
CEO Thomas Jonas says Nature’s Fynd developed Fy’s cultivation method by leveraging the fact that it is an extremophile, meaning it has adapted to survive very extreme conditions in nature.
“Because it had to adapt to survive in that environment, it became very efficient at using the available resources,” Jonas told Built In. “That efficiency makes a lot of sense for us too. There’s a lot of us on the planet and we need to be very, very efficient as well. There’s a lot of lessons we can learn from this organism.”
Jonas says the protein is also versatile and has a “very neutral” taste, meaning it can take on the flavor of anything from strawberries to chicken depending on what you mix it with. With this in mind, Nature’s Fynd plans to roll out a whole line of foods and beverages for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks within the year.
Production on the company’s new 35,000-square-foot manufacturing facility on Union Stockyards in Chicago’s South Side began last month. Jonas says the company plans to double its current headcount of 50, hiring for a variety of positions in production, biology and communications.
This most recent funding was co-led by Generation Investment Management, whose chairman is Al Gore, and Breakthrough Energy Ventures, whose investors include Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg and Jeff Bezos. ADM, a Chicago-based ingredients manufacturer, and French dairy company Danone also participated in the round.
“What really excites us is that we are a solving big problem and providing something that can really nourish people without degrading environment,” Jonas said. “It’s the next generation of agriculture.”