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Nature's Fynd

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Nature's FyndNature's Fynd
Founded 📆November 13, 2012; 7 years ago (2012-11-13)
Founder 👔
Headquarters 🏙️Chicago, Illinois, US
Area served 🗺️
Key people
Thomas Jonas, (CEO and co-founder)
Number of employees

Nature's Fynd (formerly known as Sustainable Bioproducts LLC and focused on biofuel) is a company that develops microbe-based proteins for meat substitutes. Founded in 2012, and based in Chicago, the company has been funded by a series of federal agencies in the United States (National Science Foundation, Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency and National Aeronautics and Space Administration) since 2013 and began taking venture capital financing backed by the likes of Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg and Richard Branson in 2019. As of 2020, the company aims to serve a range of consumer and industrial applications with its protein production platform, including microbial manufacturing needs for NASA. Its protein products are fungus-based rather than plant- or animal-based.

Company and product history[edit]

In 2009, co-founder and CSO Mark Kozubal was on a NASA-funded extreme environments study of life that uncovered the "Fy" protein derived from a microbe in Yellowstone National Park's geothermal springs in the Yellowstone Supervolcano.[1] The purpose of the NASA-funded study was to prepare for sending a space probe to search for life on other planets.[2] While still a postdoctoral researcher in February 2012, Kozubal determined that the acidophilic fungus, originally dubbed MK7, that he found could be converted into a lipid that could be converted into biodiesel.[3] The company was founded on November 13, 2012.[4] Sustainable Bioproducts, partnered with Montana State University in 2013 to understand the marketplace fit of MK7.[5] It has been funded by SBIR grants from numerous federal agencies: National Science Foundation (Phase I $149,848 in 2013 and Phase II $620,779 in 2014),[6][7] Department of Agriculture (Phase I $99,989 in 2014),[8] Environmental Protection Agency (Phase I $99,944 in 2014 and Phase II $300,000 in 2015),[9][10] and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Phase I $123,809 in 2018 and Phase II $749,939 in 2020),[11][12] Jonas and Kozubal originally teamed up on an effort to use "Fy" to develop a more efficient biofuel but pivoted to food.[13] At one point the company was focused on converting biological waste.[14] CEO and co-founder Thomas Jonas now describes Fy as a “resilient, thrifty little bugger,” when discussing its potential as a protein source.[1]

On February 4, 2019, Sustainable Bioproducts announced a $33-million Series A funding round led by Silicon Valley venture firm 1955 Capital. The round was backed by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a $1 billion fund led by Bill Gates with additional backing from Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg and Richard Branson as well as ADM Ventures, the venture arm of Archer Daniels Midland; Danone Manifesto Ventures, the venture arm of Danone; Lauder Partners; and the Liebelson family office. At the time of its Series A, the 22-employee company was based out of the University of Chicago's Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and believed itself to be two years from commercialization of its solid, liquid or powder products. The company uses a fermentation process on microbes sourced in Yellowstone National Park that can survive extreme environments. Its competitors in the lab-grown meat space include Memphis Meats, Geltor, Perfect Day and Finless Foods.[15]

In March 2020, the company closed an $80-million Series B round that enabled it to move into a 35,000-square-foot (3,300 m2) plant in the Back of the Yards neighborhood near the old Union Stock Yard[2] to produce its geothermal springs-sourced microbe-based product, which has a more efficient production rate and more complete protein than its competitors, and that will join kombucha in the newly evolving fermented consumables category. It also rebranded as Nature's Fynd,[16] to leverage the consumer appeal of the "found in nature" designation.[13] The Series B round was done to capitalize on the hot market for funding alternative protein and protein sources.[17] At the time of the Series B round, which was led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Al Gore's Generation Investment Management LLP, Nature's Fynd employed 50 people in the new Chicago production center and research & development office in Bozeman, Montana.[13] The company expected to have 100 employees by the end of 2020.[17] The Chicago production facility was built out with the aim of producing branded consumer products such as animal-free cream cheese, chicken nuggets, beef sliders, pork dumplings and chocolate mousse. Meanwhile, the GRAS application was underway and as were product labeling efforts regarding the microbial fermentated protein that is fungus-based rather than animal- or plant-based.[13]

Key Personnel[edit]

  • co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Thomas Jonas is a Frenchman who previously was a president at MeadWestvaco.[2] He was a former French Air Force officer.[18]
  • co-founder and Chief scientific officer, Mark Kozubal, a geomicrobiologist at Montana State University[13] and former NASA-funded researcher.[1]
  • Chief Marketing Officer, Karuna Rawal joined from Publicis Groupe (parent company of Leo Burnett Worldwide).[2]
  • Director of product design, Eleanore Eckstrom, was previously a food scientist at Kraft Heinz.[2]


MK7 was originally known as a fungus that consumed algae, produced a lipid byproduct and upon drying it exuded oil.[5] "Fy", which is short for Fusarium str. yellowstonensis, contains a complete protein (has all nine essential amino acids needed for human nutrition) that is believed to have potential use in meatless burgers, dairy substitutes and protein powders. Unlike many alternative proteins, it is itself a food rather than a protein additive to complement other processed ingredients.[18] Sometimes called Fusarium Spp, the branching network of mycelial filaments forms a proteinaceous facsimile of meat without so much as a bioreactor in open trays with basic post processing (drying, pressing, and flavoring).[19] The process uses propagation of extremophiles rather than bioengineering, resulting in an end product that is mostly protein with fibers, and oils as well as micronutrients vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron and calcium rather than a substance from which to gather a protein extract.[13] The fermentation is fueled by starches and simple sugars.[2] The fungus-based protein process is far more efficient than either plant-based or animal-based proteins with a season-agnostic biomass doubling time that is measured in hours and is not resource-intensive.[13] Since the process takes 3.5 days, a single baking sheet can produce the equivalent of 30 chickens per year.[2]

See also[edit]

Other articles of the topics Companies AND Food : Health food restaurant, Joanne's Food Truck, McDonald's Australia, Eat-the-World, Dunkin' Donuts Israel, El Gaucho (Israeli restaurant), Maoz Vegetarian

Other articles of the topic Agriculture : Turtle Island Research Cooperative, MON 89034

Other articles of the topic Companies : 20th Century Studios, Tumblr, Curejoy, Paisalo Digital Limited, Infinite Analytics, Inc., China Windpower Group, Thomas Padovani

Other articles of the topic Food : List of cider producers in Devon, Fritter roll, Smokeshow, G.N.P.C., Harvesters of the Bay, Chocolate-covered cookie dough, Starbucks Coffee

Other articles of the topic Fungi : Psilocybin mushroom

  • List of meat substitutes
  • Protein quality
  • Beyond Meat
  • Impossible Foods


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Kaiserman, Beth (May 5, 2020). "Fermented Protein Supplier Erupts as a CPG Company". Nosh. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Elejalde-Ruiz, Alexia (March 24, 2020). "'Chicken' nuggets and cream 'cheese' grow in trays in a South Side lab. Are you ready for alternative proteins made from a volcanic microbe?". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  3. Voegele, Erin (February 16, 2012). "Montana State researchers uncover unique lipid-producing fungus". Biodiesel Magazine. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  4. "Sustainable Bioproducts LLC". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Jannotta, Sepp (February 13, 2013). "MSU graduate launches biofuels start-up, partners with university". Montana State University New Service. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  6. "SBIR Phase I: Direct Conversion of Lignocellulosic Feedstocks to Lipids and High-Value Products using a Proprietary Microbial Process". SBIR.gov. United States Governement. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  7. "SBIR Phase II: Direct Conversion of Lignocellulosic Feedstocks to Lipids and High-Value Products using a Proprietary Microbial Process". SBIR.gov. United States Governement. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  8. "Direct Conversion of Farm Manure to Biodiesel and ethanol Utilizing a Novel Extremophilic Fungus". SBIR.gov. United States Governement. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  9. "Direct Conversion of Municipal and Agricultural Wastes to Biodiesel and Ethanol Utilizing a Unique Extremophilic Fungus". SBIR.gov. United States Governement. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  10. "Direct Conversion of Organic Municipal Solid Waste to Lipids using an Extremophilic Fungus". SBIR.gov. United States Governement. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  11. "A Robust Biofilm-Biomat Reactor for Conversion of Mission-Relevant Feedstocks to Products". SBIR.gov. United States Governement. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  12. "A Robust Biofilm-Biomat Reactor for Conversion of Mission-Relevant Feedstocks to Products". SBIR.gov. United States Governement. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 Watson, Elaine (March 24, 2020). "Nature's Fynd (formerly Sustainable Bioproducts) raises $80m to grow food from microbes". FoodNavigator-USA. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  14. Kendall, Lewis (March 27, 2016). "Company receives grant to turn waste into products". Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  15. Dallke, Jim (February 4, 2019). "Bill Gates Backs $33M Round for Chicago Startup Developing Lab-Grown Protein". American City Business Journals. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  16. Yu, Douglas (March 24, 2020). "Nature's Fynd Produces Microbes-Based Protein For Food And Beverage In New Chicago Facility After Raising $80 Million". Forbes. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Burwood-Taylor, Louisa (March 24, 2020). "Nature's Fynd rebrands from Sustainable Bioproducts raising $80m Series B to launch new protein food products". AgFunderNews. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Lotus, Jean (April 7, 2020). "Microbes from Yellowstone's hot springs make new meat substitute". United Press International. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  19. Rogers, Adam (April 1, 2020). "Mmmm, Fungus. It's the Next Big Thing in Fake Meat". Wired. Retrieved May 18, 2020.

External links[edit]

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