- With $80 million in new funding, alternative protein company Nature's Fynd — previously known as Sustainable Bioproducts — changed its name and started production in a 35,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Chicago. The company says the plant is temporarily closed to protect worker safety.
- The funding round was led by Generation Investment Management LLP and Breakthrough Energy Ventures. Also participating in this round are 1955 Capital, Mousse Partners, Archer Daniels Midland's venture arm ADM Ventures and Danone's venture arm Danone Manifesto Ventures.
- The company, which got its start in NASA-supported research into organisms that can survive harsh conditions at Yellowstone National Park, currently employs 50 people in its Chicago corporate headquarters and its R&D center in Bozeman, Montana. The company plans to more than double its workforce by the end of the year.
With this new round of funding, Nature's Fynd is getting closer to doing something absolutely improbable: feeding the world with a discovery in a volcano.
CEO Thomas Jonas told Food Dive last year his goal was to launch some products this year using a fungus researchers discovered living in an acidic spring with the pH of a car battery in Yellowstone. The funding to build this plant and scale up the company brings that much closer to reality.
The new company name also represents an evolution toward food production. While the name Nature's Fynd doesn't necessarily sound like a food company, it sounds less industrial than Sustainable Bioproducts. The name comes from the protein at the center of the company, Fusarium strain yellowstonensis, which the company trademarked as Fy.
This round of funding more than doubles what the company previously raised. A little more than a year ago, it raised $33 million from many of the same funders, including both Danone and ADM's venture arms. Many of the funders only back sustainable businesses.
Nature's Fynd, which ferments its protein, uses a fraction of the resources as conventional protein production. According to its website, this product uses 99% less land and 87% less water than beef production. Last year, he told Food Dive the Chicago plant could produce the equivalent amount of burgers that could come from cows living on 7,000 acres.
"In these challenging times, securing food for our growing population under the immense pressure of climate change becomes even more urgent," Jonas said in the press release announcing the funding and name change. "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."
The product is also highly nutritious, containing all nine essential amino acids, dietary fiber, calcium and vitamins. The company has found a wide array of applications for it, ranging from dairy substitutes to meat analogs.
What types of products are consumers likely to see first? Photos sent to Food Dive show a wide array of items made from the protein, ranging from puddings to nuggets to dips to burgers to spreads. The trademark application for Fy also has a long list of applications, including nutritional supplements, meat substitutes, egg substitutes and animal feed.
However, the funding from ADM and Danone inspire a few ideas of where the products will appear. Jonas told Food Dive last year that he is hoping to forge several partnerships to get products to market. Ingredients giant ADM can help this protein get in any type of product, though the bulk of its venture arm investments are in tech companies outside of food production. With a product that can simulate yogurt and other dairy spreads, it makes sense for Danone to lend a hand to Nature's Fynd early on for a potential partnership later.
What is certain is that with more funding and more factories, the alternative protein space will continue to grow. And while plant-based protein companies are continuing to expand and prosper, companies like Nature's Fynd, Quorn, Prime Roots and Noblegen are a continual reminder that plants aren't the only way to deliver an animal-free diet. As the year goes on, more of these products will be on grocery shelves, potentially challenging both traditional meat, dairy and eggs and their plant-based alternatives.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated progress on the production facility.