Hyfé Foods Aims to Combat Waste With Its Innovative Flour Production Process
Sure the latest initiatives from the Teslas, Apples and Googles of the industry tend to dominate the tech news space — and with good reason. Still, the tech titans aren’t the only ones bringing innovation to the sector.
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Food and beverage manufacturing is essential in today’s world, however, modern methods used in the industry often result in large amounts of waste. The beverage industry, specifically, produces a lot of water waste in order to make drinks like soda and beer. To produce half a liter of soda, for example, 70 liters of water are required, according to research by EOS Intelligence. And to make a quarter liter of beer, 74 liters of water are needed.
Water waste from beverage production facilities results in surgery water that is food-safe but often ends up in reclamation centers.
To reduce the amount of waste water ending up in reclamation centers, Chicago-based Hyfé Foods has been perfecting a fermentation process that takes the discarded water from beverage production facilities and turns it into mycelium flour — which is high in fiber and protein.
Turning discarded sugary water into mycelium flour begins when Hyfé runs the water through a fermentation process and uses it as feed for mycelium, a fungi root that is found in nature. This process turns the mycelium into flour while also removing sugar and other additives from the water. Hyfé then sells this recycled water back to manufacturers so they don’t have to extract it from freshwater sources.
Behind Hyfé’s operations is chemical engineer Michelle Ruiz, who previously worked at Exxon where she oversaw wastewater treatment. She co-founded Hyfé in 2021 to repurpose water used in beverage production and create foods without refined carbs.
“When I was thinking through the characteristics of mycelium I was like, ‘How are we only using this to make meat or dairy alternatives?’” Ruiz told Built In. “One particular category that means a lot to me is flour and flour products because I am Hispanic and the most challenging foods to stop eating are the ones that have the refined carbs.”
When Ruiz was applying for grants for Hyfé, Andrea Schoen joined the startup as a co-founder.
Fungi produces so many different byproducts that are high value; it could really be a circular manufacturing process where you’re using somebody’s waste, you’re creating a product and you’re using your byproducts to create more valuable goods.”
“Fungi produces so many different byproducts that are high value; it could really be a circular manufacturing process where you’re using somebody’s waste, you’re creating a product and you’re using your byproducts to create more valuable goods,” Ruiz said.
Earlier this year, Hyfé closed its first funding investment, a $2 million pre-seed round led by The Engine with participation from Blue Horizon. With that money, Ruiz said Hyfé has been able to make key hires, such as microbiologists and a process engineer who oversees the production facility and equipment. According to Ruiz, the company plans to continue hiring.
By early next year, Hyfé intends to have a prototype pasta product that is identical in taste and texture to the pasta consumers are familiar with. With the prototype, the company will also seek to launch a seed raise.
Ultimately, Ruiz also hopes to make Hyfé’s fermentation process scaleable to help address food insecurity in other countries.