Sustainable Bioproducts, the startup that’s using a microbe discovered in Yellowstone National Park to manufacture alternative protein food products, has rebranded to Nature’s Fynd and raised $80 million in Series B funding. Nature’s Fynd is set to release a range of food products from breakfast and lunch through to snacks and dinner made from its proprietary microbe-produced protein, dubbed Fy, which contains all nine essential amino acids, as well as dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamins.
This makes “it one of the rare non-animal sources of complete protein,” according to the company. “It is very versatile and can be made into alternative meat and dairy products, as well as protein drinks and powders,” reads a press release. (The company supplied the cover image to this article giving some hints as to what these products will be.)
Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the $1 billion fund backed by leading investors including Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Michael Bloomberg, John Doerr, and others, led the round alongside Generation Investment Management, the $25 billion multi-stage investment firm started by Al Gore.
1955 Capital, which led Sustainable Bioproducts’ $33 million Series A raise in February 2019, also joined the round alongside fellow existing investors ADM Ventures and Danone Manifesto Ventures. New investor Mousse Partners, which is related to the fashion house Chanel, also invested.
Andrew Chung, founder of 1955 Capital – which will remain the largest shareholder in the company after this round – said Nature’s Fynd did not need to raise at this time. But the excitement surrounding alternative protein and the growing importance of finding new protein sources meant the company was receiving a lot of interest from several groups.
“This was a pre-emptive move to raise new capital and will allow the company to accelerate its commercialization efforts. It will start producing products at the start of this month from its new 35,000 square foot manufacturing facilities in Chicago, with plans to double the size of the team to 100 by the end of the year,” he told AFN.
A microbe producing “food-like” protein…
Nature’s Fynd, which has an R&D center in Montana, was spun out of NASA-supported research into organisms that thrive in the extreme environmental conditions of Yellowstone’s geothermal springs. That’s where it discovered the microbe Fusarium str. yellowstonensis.
Not only does the microbe create a complete protein but it’s also highly functional, producing what Chung described as “a food-like substance, which gives a lot of the texture and structure of food for free.” Nature’s Fynd is turning it into a variety of food products including meat and dairy alternatives, powders, and protein drinks. The company could also become an ingredient supplier to others.
Chung compared it to other alternative protein products that have a protein extract but require a structure to be created synthetically, or through a lot of processing and adding other ingredients.
“One of the biggest reasons we’re so excited about this company compared to any other food tech companies — and I saw many at Khosla where we were the first investors in Impossible Foods and Ripple [Foods] — is that they’ve really been able to develop tasty products across multiple food groups, faster and with elegant manufacturing processes at a low cost,” he said.
“They have IP around the microbe they discovered being a very novel protein source with all those amino acids, and highly digestible. But importantly, they also have IP covering the nature of the fermentation tech they’ve developed, that’s so cost-effective and grows protein using a fraction of the land and water resources typically required.”
…at “China prices”
Nature’s Fynd uses fermentation to produce Fy from the microbe, in what the company describes as a breakthrough fermentation technique. Chung backed this up saying the company had developed an elegant manufacturing process capable of producing food products cheaply, “at China prices.” That’s important as the world looks to find new ways of meeting the growing demand for protein in emerging economies, particularly Asia.
“Our link with China is one of the reasons they chose us as their first investor, as they wanted the ability […] to address the massive untapped opportunity in the developing world and the large supply problem for countries like China, and in Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East,” he told AFN.
In some of those countries they have “the fundamental issue of not having enough livestock to supply their fast-growing middle classes and need alternatives fast.” These same places have also borne the brunt of recent issues affecting livestock, such as African swine fever, he added.
“In these challenging times, securing food for our growing population under the immense pressure of climate change becomes even more urgent,” said Nature’s Fynd co-founder and CEO Thomas Jonas in a statement. “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.”