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Thomas Jonas

Chief Executive Officer

Thomas believes in asking the big questions but also in finding new and different solutions. When a chance encounter on the beach in Hawaii led Thomas to a lab in Montana where he met Mark, he saw infinite possibilities in the tiny microscopic organism. When others often ask why, Thomas’ curiosity drives him to ask, why not and what if? Why not use the nutritional power of Fy to positively impact the environment and disrupt the food industry? What if Fy could feed people today and for generations to come? And as a former officer in the French Air Force, Thomas knows that even the sky is not the limit.
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Dr. Mark Kozubal

Chief Science Officer

Mark loves exploring science to find groundbreaking ways to benefit mankind. True to his curious nature, he journeyed to Yellowstone National Park and later discovered an extremophile microbe in samples taken from the hot springs. This microbe eventually grew to become our nutritional fungi protein, Fy. As a leading expert in extremophile organisms, it’s no surprise that his deep knowledge has led NASA, the National Science Foundation, the USDA, and the EPA to seek him out. When Mark isn’t researching extremophiles, he likes to mountain bike, backcountry ski, and strum guitar.
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Matthew Strongin

Chief Financial Officer

Matthew is passionate about leveraging technology to deliver a sustained impact on the planet and our society. This enthusiasm led him to Nature’s Fynd after working in venture capital and banking. As a venture investor in early-stage companies focused on agriculture and energy, Matthew experienced firsthand the struggles and rewards of commercializing technologies that both challenge convention and create sustainable solutions that disrupt the food industry in a positive way. He enjoys building towards audacious goals using his innovative spirit— just ask him about completely remodeling his home in his spare time.
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Karuna Rawal

Chief Marketing Officer

As a marketer with award-winning international success, Karuna was ready for the challenge of building a purpose-driven brand from the ground up. That brand? Nature’s Fynd. Karuna’s broad experience in launching new food innovations combined with an intentional focus on how we can create a better food system led her to this position. Building on the company’s unique origins, Karuna is crafting a compelling narrative for Nature’s Fynd. And her own enthusiasm for food extends beyond her kitchen to seeking out amazing tasting vegan food. So if you’re in Chicago, ask her to share a favorite recipe or restaurant she last visited for a flawless recommendation.
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Jim Millis

Chief Technology Officer

Jim’s belief is simple: live modestly and leave the world in a better place than you found it. He does this by preparing food from his own garden and through his work at Nature’s Fynd. With over thirty years of working as an entrepreneurial leader and his expertise in fermentation technology, Jim helped create the breakthrough method used to grow our nutritional fungi protein, Fy. This innovative spirit comes from a family of creators. With a woodshop on his family’s farm and an uncle in the business of wood lathes, Jim also loves woodturning to craft stunning bowls from reclaimed wood.
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Alternative Proteins: The Ultimate Guide

Nature's Fynd Blog

Alter­na­tive Pro­teins:
The Ulti­mate Guide

You can help stop cli­mate change in its tracks in many ways, and choos­ing alter­na­tive pro­teins over tra­di­tion­al ani­mal pro­teins is an easy one. Alter­na­tive pro­teins are often bet­ter for the plan­et because their man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­duces few­er green­house gas­es while using less land and water than tra­di­tion­al pro­teins. The world of pro­tein is now won­der­ful­ly diverse and can def­i­nite­ly send one down a rab­bit hole of Google search­es for days. To make things a bit more digestible, we’re going to break down how indus­tries cat­e­go­rize pro­teins by where the pro­tein is com­ing from—such as plant-based, fun­gi-based (like our Fy Pro­tein™), algae-based, insect-based, and even pro­tein grown in labs from ani­mal cells. 

In 2020, the alter­na­tive pro­tein indus­try raised $3.1 bil­lion in invest­ment, three times more than in 2019. With the increased fund­ing, comes an increased vari­ety of new and inno­v­a­tive options beyond the cur­rent­ly pop­u­lar plant-based pro­teins. Though peo­ple tend to use the term plant-based” to encom­pass all alter­na­tive pro­teins, that phrase is limiting—as you’ll see, it doesn’t begin to cov­er the full spec­trum of ani­mal-free foods. 

The world of alt pro­teins can be com­pli­cat­ed, but once you learn about the types and ben­e­fits of these pro­tein alter­na­tives, you’ll be able to con­fi­dent­ly choose the right option for you and your family. 

Alter­na­tive pro­teins explained 

Let’s start with the basics. Alter­na­tive pro­tein, also called alt pro­tein, is a gen­er­al phrase that refers to foods, ingre­di­ents, or bev­er­ages that have pro­tein derived from non-ani­mal sources. There are six king­doms of liv­ing things—animal, plant, fun­gi, pro­tists, archae­bac­te­ria, and eubac­te­ria. Most alter­na­tive pro­teins fall into the plant, fun­gi, or pro­tist king­dom. We all need pro­tein to build mus­cles, repair cells, and pro­vide ener­gy. Peo­ple choose to eat alt pro­teins for a vari­ety of rea­sons, like to help stop cli­mate change, avoid ani­mal cru­el­ty, or eat more consciously. 

Plant-based pro­tein

Plant-based pro­teins are per­haps the most well-known and pop­u­lar form of mod­ern alt pro­tein and have become very preva­lent in the food indus­try dri­ven by con­sumers’ demand for an eco-friend­ly alter­na­tive to ani­mal pro­tein. Peo­ple tend to use the term plant-based” when refer­ring to any pro­tein alter­na­tive in the ani­mal-free space, but the phrase is not all-encom­pass­ing. Let’s dive into what exact­ly plant-based alter­na­tives actu­al­ly are. 

Often replac­ing tra­di­tion­al pro­teins in foods like burg­ers and chick­en nuggets, plant-based pro­teins are made from…you guessed it, plants. The promise of plant-based pro­teins is sim­i­lar to fun­gi-based —they can offer some health ben­e­fits and are eas­i­er on the plan­et. With plant-based pro­teins, you’re con­cen­trat­ing the pro­tein from a plant, mean­ing that the pro­tein is iso­lat­ed from a plant (like a pea) leav­ing every­thing else behind.

Of course, peo­ple can sim­ply eat raw plants, but many of us still crave the taste and tex­ture of tra­di­tion­al meat and dairy foods. Some com­mon plant-based pro­tein alter­na­tives that have been eat­en for cen­turies include sei­tan, tem­peh, tofu, and jack­fruit. Plant pro­tein can be made in many dif­fer­ent ways. For exam­ple, to make a plant-based burg­er one can grow peas, extract the pro­tein frac­tion from the pea, and then mix it with oth­er ingre­di­ents to cre­ate a burg­er that does­n’t require an ani­mal as the middleman. 

Aside from plant-based meat, plant-based bev­er­ages like milks’ are begin­ning to take up a larg­er num­ber of refrig­er­a­tor shelves across the globe, with sales increas­ing 20% in 2020. Many peo­ple now con­sume almond milk, oat milk, and soy milk in addi­tion to or some­times instead of cow’s milk. So now, if you can think of a food or drink, there’s prob­a­bly a plant-based ver­sion of it. 

Fun­gi-based protein 

Sci­en­tists used to think that fun­gi were a type of plant, but we now know that fun­gi fall into their own sci­en­tif­ic king­dom and are actu­al­ly more close­ly relat­ed to ani­mals than they are to plants, even though they’re still stocked in the pro­duce sec­tion of your gro­cery store. Mind-blown yet? In order to ful­ly under­stand the world of fun­gi, you’ll have to learn about mycelium. 


Most peo­ple imag­ine mush­room caps when they think of fun­gi, how­ev­er, that’s just one part of fun­gi called the fruit­ing body. Myceli­um is a fibrous struc­ture of a fun­gus that’s most­ly hid­den from us, span­ning thou­sands of miles under­ground. Myceli­um is made up of hyphae which are thread-like strands that grow into a dense, fibrous structure. 

Here at Nature’s Fynd, we make a nutri­tion­al fun­gi pro­tein named Fy™ by fer­ment­ing a microbe (more specif­i­cal­ly, fil­a­men­tous fun­gi) that has ori­gins in a vol­canic hot spring in Yel­low­stone Nation­al Park. Because of mycelium’s nat­u­ral­ly fibrous struc­ture, Fy mim­ics the tex­ture of meat, but Fy can also be made into creamy liq­uids when blend­ed with water and dried into pow­ders, like flour. This ver­sa­til­i­ty allows Fy to be turned into a wide vari­ety of foods like our meat­less and dairy-free foods. 

And there are sev­er­al types of fer­men­ta­tion methods—submerged, sol­id-state fer­men­ta­tion, and liq­uid-air inter­face fer­men­ta­tion (our pro­pri­etary method). Fer­men­ta­tion uses a frac­tion of the resources need­ed to pro­duce plant and ani­mal pro­teins, though the lev­els vary based on the type of fer­men­ta­tion. In liq­uid-air inter­face fer­men­ta­tion, what’s real­ly unique is that the fun­gi grow in ver­ti­cal racks of trays indoors (ver­sus the large tanks need­ed for sub­merged fer­men­ta­tion) mak­ing it a sim­pler, more scal­able method.

Many fun­gi-based pro­teins are inher­ent­ly nutri­ent-dense. They’re high in pro­tein and fiber, plus they’re low in sat­u­rat­ed fat. As we said before, plant-based pro­tein alter­na­tives just con­vert an exist­ing pro­tein from one form into anoth­er, like from a pea into pea pro­tein into a veg­gie burg­er, but fun­gi-based pro­teins are tru­ly a source of net-new pro­tein. For exam­ple, at Nature’s Fynd the fun­gi we use actu­al­ly takes in car­bo­hy­drates and turns it into our high-qual­i­ty pro­tein, Fy, which con­tains all 20 amino acids, includ­ing the nine essen­tial ones. Fy is also non-GMO. Most kinds of ani­mal pro­teins con­tain the right com­bi­na­tion of amino acids so that peo­ple can get all nine they need. But veg­e­tar­i­ans and veg­ans need a var­ied source of plant proteins—they often have to mix and match non-ani­mal sources to get enough of the right amino acids. A com­mon exam­ple of this is the clas­sic com­bi­na­tion of rice and beans, each with a set of incom­plete amino acid pro­files, but togeth­er they cre­ate a meal with all 9 essen­tial amino acids. More and more com­pa­nies are enter­ing the fun­gi-based pro­tein mar­ket with a shared goal to pro­vide sus­tain­able foods to a world fac­ing pop­u­la­tion growth and a cli­mate crisis. 

Lab-grown meat

There’s a lot of debate about what to call this next pro­tein alter­na­tive. So if you’re new to this space, peo­ple also refer to lab-grown meat as clean meat, cell-based meat, and cul­ti­vat­ed meat. No mat­ter what you call it, this alt pro­tein is cre­at­ed by grow­ing a few ani­mal cells into ful­ly edi­ble meat alter­na­tives. Com­pa­nies pro­duc­ing these foods are grow­ing meat from mam­mals, fish, and even spe­cif­ic ani­mal organs. Plus, lab-grown meat does not require plants for pro­duc­tion either. 

The growth process typ­i­cal­ly begins with a cou­ple of ani­mal cells, like stem cells or mus­cle cells, that are then placed in a growth mix­ture where they grow on struc­tures called scaf­fold­ing. The ben­e­fit is that the result­ing prod­uct tastes like ani­mal meat because it’s grown direct­ly from ani­mal cells. Lab-grown meat removes ani­mals from the equa­tion to avoid abuse and dis­eases in slaugh­ter­hous­es while also deliv­er­ing on the ben­e­fit of decreas­ing the num­ber of green­house gas­es emitted. 

Cur­rent­ly, most lab-grown meat com­pa­nies are in the test­ing phas­es, with very few yet in the mar­ket. Also, costs for lab-grown meats are still extreme­ly high when com­pared to their tra­di­tion­al meat coun­ter­parts. Until there are more reg­u­la­to­ry approvals to scale up and mass-pro­duce lab-grown meats, these costs will like­ly remain a bar­ri­er to mass adoption. 

Algae-based pro­tein

Although algae have been con­sumed and researched for sev­er­al years, algae-based pro­tein is now becom­ing increas­ing­ly pop­u­lar in the alt pro­tein space. To make algae-based meats, com­pa­nies extract a microal­ga (sin­gle-celled organ­ism) and then fer­ment it to grow an ingre­di­ent that’s com­bined with fla­vor­ings to become the final food prod­uct. Fur­ther, there are dif­fer­ent kinds of algae that are used for dif­fer­ent applications.

Algae are rich in omega‑3 fat­ty acids and vit­a­mins. Since these microal­gae-based foods are still in the infan­cy stage of research and only being pro­duced at a small scale, there are many unknowns with iso­lat­ing and scal­ing algae-based pro­tein. One chal­lenge this alter­na­tive pro­tein faces is that algae lack a neu­tral smell, col­or, and taste. With­out that, it will like­ly be dif­fi­cult to make it a wide­ly accept­able alter­na­tive. As research and invest­ment in this field grow, the advan­tages and dis­ad­van­tages of cre­at­ing algae-based pro­tein at scale will become clearer.

Insect pro­tein

Yes, you read that correctly—insect pro­tein is anoth­er inno­v­a­tive alter­na­tive source of pro­tein. Insects are gen­er­al­ly high in pro­tein and can be raised with far less green­house gas emis­sions than rais­ing ani­mals or grow­ing acres of plants. The most pop­u­lar insects for pro­tein alter­na­tives are crick­ets, grasshop­pers, and meal­worms. Com­pa­nies in this space have insect farms that sell the pow­dered form of the insect as pro­tein which is then added to foods like pro­tein bars, crack­ers, and even bak­ing mix­es to boost the pro­tein content. 

For many, the largest hur­dle for this seg­ment to over­come is the soci­etal aver­sion to eat­ing insects, large­ly in the Amer­i­c­as and Europe. If these com­pa­nies are able to over­come con­sumers’ neg­a­tive per­cep­tions of eat­ing insects then this may be anoth­er emerg­ing area of alter­nate pro­teins in the decades to come.

Future of food 

The future of our plan­et depends on the future of our food sys­tem. It’s excit­ing that new alter­na­tive sources of pro­tein are emerg­ing as they are cru­cial to nour­ish­ing our grow­ing pop­u­la­tion while mit­i­gat­ing the effects of the cli­mate cri­sis. Whether your pref­er­ence is fun­gi-based, plant-based, lab-grown, algae-based, or insect pro­teins, when you choose alter­na­tive pro­teins you’re choos­ing a sus­tain­able option that’s often bet­ter for you and bet­ter for the planet. 

Learn more about fun­gi-based pro­tein, like Fy, by dis­cov­er­ing details about our Meat­less Break­fast Pat­ties and Dairy-Free Cream Cheese.