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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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Everything You Need to Know About Fungi-Based Proteins

Nature's Fynd Blog

Every­thing You Need to Know About Fun­gi-Based Pro­teins + How Fy Pro­tein™ Stands Out

by Ethan A.

If you’ve ever topped or swapped your burg­er pat­ty with mush­rooms, you’re just start­ing to scratch the sur­face of the poten­tial of fun­gi in foods.

Most peo­ple think of fun­gi-based foods only in terms of the crem­i­ni, shi­take, and oth­er mush­rooms used in cook­ing. Or per­haps you rec­og­nize the fun­gi in your bread, beer, and yeast. Some even imag­ine a mush­room cap when they think of fun­gi; how­ev­er, that’s just one part of fun­gi called the fruit­ing body. 

So why are we writ­ing about fun­gi? Here at Nature’s Fynd, we make Fy™, our nutri­tion­al fun­gi pro­tein, by fer­ment­ing the fun­gal microbe named Fusar­i­um strain flavolapis.

A cou­ple of things to set straight before jump­ing into the details—all mush­rooms are fun­gi, but not all fun­gi are mush­rooms. The microbe we use to make Fy is a fun­gus but not a mushroom. 

Still with us? 

Let’s dig into what makes fun­gi unique as alter­na­tive pro­teins, how the cre­ation process is informed by—and kind to—nature, and how they stack up as a poten­tial nutri­tious part of your diet. We’ll also uncov­er why Fy Pro­tein™ is unique, even amongst the fan­tas­tic fun­gi-based category. 

Fun­gi-based pro­teins explained

The world of alter­na­tive pro­teins is large and easy to get lost in, espe­cial­ly when the term plant-based pro­teins” is increas­ing­ly thrown around.

A key fun­gi fun­da­men­tal: they’re not plants!

Sci­en­tists used to group fun­gi with plants (gro­cery stores still do!) before recat­e­go­riz­ing them into their own sci­en­tif­ic king­dom. But you can find fun­gi far beyond your local pro­duce aisle—they’re a type of microor­gan­ism, or microbe, that can be found in just about any habitat. 

That’s thanks to myceli­um in the case of the fil­a­men­tous Fusar­i­um genus of the fun­gi king­dom. Mycelium’s vast net­works of hyphae (the thread-like fil­a­ments that inform the fungi’s name) react to changes in their ecosys­tem and pro­duce growth struc­tures to match, which cre­ate a tex­ture that can resem­ble ani­mal meat! Myceli­um also acts as a kind of under­ground inter­net or wood-wide web,” shar­ing nutri­ents and infor­ma­tion across neigh­bor­ing trees, bush­es, and more.

The myceli­um of fil­a­men­tous fun­gi serve the same pur­pose in the alter­na­tive pro­tein indus­try as they do in nature: deliv­er­ing a com­plete nutri­ent profile.

Dif­fer­ent species of Fusar­i­um fun­gi may be found across the meat alter­na­tive space. In fact, Fusar­i­um strain vene­na­tum has been employed since the 1980s where­as the microbe we use at Nature’s Fynd, Fusar­i­um strain flavolapis is a new­er, excit­ing dis­cov­ery for fun­gi-based foods. You might see fun­gi-based pro­teins referred to as myco­pro­tein (based on the Greek work mykes” for fun­gus), meat­less meat, or even mis­la­beled as plant-based protein—but myceli­um by any oth­er name is just as mighty.

Cre­at­ing sus­tain­able food

Sci­ence is often at its best when it reveals solu­tions to prob­lems that already exist in nature.

That’s the case with fun­gi-based foods. The process behind this alter­na­tive pro­tein repli­cates the way these organ­isms grow in their nat­ur­al environments—and it’s called fermentation.

You’ve prob­a­bly heard of fer­men­ta­tion where sug­ars and carbs in a food con­vert into some­thing else; like when juice turns into wine or milk into cheese. An organ­ism trans­forms what it’s fed into nutrients.

Sound famil­iar? Fer­men­ta­tion is part of our diges­tion process too—that’s where dis­cus­sions of ben­e­fi­cial microbes and a healthy gut micro­bio­me come from. When we con­sume ani­mal pro­tein, we’re basi­cal­ly hijack­ing the work of the animal’s diges­tion and intak­ing the amino acids and nutri­ents the ani­mals have already con­vert­ed from their diet.

Tra­di­tion­al plant-based meat and dairy alter­na­tives need that work done pri­or to their appear­ance on your plate. Many plant-based meat alter­na­tives on the mar­ket extract the pro­tein from the plant but leave its oth­er nutri­ents behind, trans­form­ing it from one form (whole food from plant) into anoth­er (iso­lat­ed or con­cen­trat­ed plant protein). 

Fun­gi fer­men­ta­tion is different.

Rather than iso­lat­ing pro­tein, the fer­men­ta­tion process grows a net-new pro­tein. Fun­gi are fed sim­ple nutri­ents to grow dense net­works of myceli­um that become the even­tu­al end-prod­uct of dif­fer­ent fun­gi-based foods.

Fun­gi as a source of pro­tein essen­tial­ly offer a short­cut through the food chain. Direct­ly con­vert­ing its food through fer­men­ta­tion doesn’t require the acres of land or water need­ed to sup­port plant growth or ani­mal graz­ing, mak­ing fun­gi-based pro­tein more effi­cient to pro­duce than oth­er options.

Here at Nature’s Fynd, we devel­oped a pro­pri­etary fer­men­ta­tion tech­nique to com­ple­ment the spec­tac­u­lar prop­er­ties of Fusar­i­um strain flavolapis that’s even more effi­cient than tra­di­tion­al meth­ods and can be used anywhere—we’re even test­ing grow­ing Fy in space!

Fla­vor and nutri­tion ben­e­fits of fungi

You might have a mush­room taste in mind, but fun­gi have their own unique fla­vor pro­files and nutri­ent qual­i­ties when devel­oped into pro­tein alter­na­tives. Our Fy fun­gi is actu­al­ly nat­u­ral­ly neu­tral-fla­vored, which can make it incred­i­bly ver­sa­tile in its food appli­ca­tions. That’s how Nature’s Fynd is able to make veg­an cream cheese and break­fast sausage with our fun­gi-based Fy Protein.

As a new­er play­er among alter­na­tive pro­teins, the body of research on fun­gi-based pro­teins is still grow­ing but shows they’re not just dense in myceli­um struc­ture, but nutri­tion­al ben­e­fits as well!

His­tor­i­cal­ly stud­ied as myco­pro­teins, fun­gi-based pro­tein con­sump­tion has shown promis­ing effects on low­er­ing cho­les­terol and improv­ing glycemic con­trol in pre­lim­i­nary stud­ies. They’re nat­u­ral­ly free of cho­les­terol, con­tain lit­tle to no fat, and are packed with vit­a­mins and minerals.

We’ll speak best to the nutri­tion­al con­tent of myco­pro­teins through our nutri­tious fun­gi pro­tein, Fy.

Fy con­tains more pro­tein and fiber per calo­rie than any ani­mal or plant source, with the fiber com­ing from nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring beta-glu­cans and pre­bi­ot­ic fiber. But what about amino acids?

If you’ve tried veg­an or veg­e­tar­i­an eat­ing, you know that a vari­ety of pro­tein alter­na­tives are often required in order to get the essen­tial amino acids we need from our diet.

Fy Pro­tein is a com­plete pro­tein con­tain­ing all nine essen­tial amino acids—the ones we have to get from our diets because our bod­ies can’t pro­duce these internally—and the oth­er 11 amino acids that our bod­ies can make. Plus it boasts impres­sive nutri­tion­al val­ue: Fy has 50% more pro­tein than tofu, twice as much as raw peas, and only a tenth of the fat and 30x less sodi­um than ground beef.

Part of the ben­e­fit of Fy and oth­er fun­gi-based prod­ucts’ fer­men­ta­tion is that they pro­duce net-new pro­teins. Com­pared to the iso­lates and con­cen­trates of plant-based pro­teins, fun­gi-based pro­teins like Fy are high­ly digestible and their pro­tein con­tent is eas­i­ly absorbed.

Stud­ies also found fun­gi-based pro­teins to be a low aller­gen risk, mak­ing it a great alter­na­tive to his­tor­i­cal veg­an options like tofu or tem­peh which con­tain soy, or sei­tan which con­tains wheat/​gluten.

All of these find­ings, along with the envi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits of fun­gi-based pro­teins, have the nutri­tion­al sci­ence com­mu­ni­ty eager to learn more through con­tin­ued research studies.

How Fy Pro­tein™ com­pares to fun­gi, plant-based pro­teins, and oth­er alter­na­tive proteins 

The world of alter­na­tive pro­teins is grow­ing larg­er every day, which is great news for tack­ling the prob­lem of glob­al food secu­ri­ty caused by the expand­ing pop­u­la­tion and shrink­ing resources—but it’s a world that can be hard to nav­i­gate with­out a good guide.

A key dif­fer­ence between fun­gi-based pro­teins and most plant-based pro­teins is that many plant-based pro­teins are made by iso­lat­ing pro­tein from plants. But while plant pro­teins are more sus­tain­able than meat, they still require a lot of land and water, and they’re dif­fi­cult to make into things that look and feel like meat.

Plant-based pro­teins also rely on tra­di­tion­al agri­cul­tur­al cycles. Soy­bean and pea crops take months to mature and, under most cir­cum­stances, their devel­op­ment is lim­it­ed to spe­cif­ic grow­ing sea­sons. Fer­ment­ing fun­gi-based pro­teins is inde­pen­dent of tra­di­tion­al sea­son­al cycles.

Fun­gi-based pro­teins aren’t cell-based meat either, they’re a true veg­an pro­tein source. 

Fy stands out from oth­er fun­gi-based prod­ucts and pro­tein alter­na­tives thanks large­ly to the dis­cov­ery of Fusar­i­um strain flavolapis and Nature Fynd’s nov­el liq­uid-air inter­face fer­men­ta­tion method. This pow­er­house com­bo gives us an incred­i­bly sus­tain­able, nutri­tious, and ver­sa­tile pro­tein that can be pro­duced any­where.

Learn more about Fy’s jour­ney, from its incred­i­ble ori­gins in a Yel­low­stone Nation­al Park hot spring to its future place on your plate.