A vegan fungal protein bioreactor from the Chicago-based Nature’s Fynd is now in orbit on board the SpaceX-25 to explore novel methods of supplying nourishing, long-lasting protein for space travel. The mission is the next phase of Nature’s Fynd’s ongoing partnership with Montana State University, BioServe Space Technologies, a division of the University of Colorado Boulder, and NASA’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.
The mission study’s objective is to show how a cutting-edge bioreactor technology can be used to create high-protein meals on the International Space Station (ISS). So far, it has been demonstrated that this bioreactor technique effectively transforms common feedstocks on Earth, including as grass and other plant material, into high-protein fungus. The purpose of this voyage is to examine the bioreactor’s performance in low-Earth orbit’s microgravity and radiation environment.
“We’re thrilled to announce our role in the revolutionary NASA research to develop a safe, efficient, and robust system for producing fresh food in space. Our connection to NASA is deep—Nature’s Fynd started as a research project for NASA, which led us to discover a remarkable microbe with origins in Yellowstone National Park… We’re delighted to come full circle now and demonstrate our technology’s efficacy for future space travel,” Thomas Jonas, CEO and co-founder of Nature’s Fynd, said in a statement.
Fy, a flexible, nutritious fungal protein with roots in an acidic hot spring at Yellowstone National Park, will be grown in the cutting-edge bioreactor on board the International Space Station. It is produced utilizing a unique fermentation technique developed by the company, which requires a small amount of the energy, water, and land needed for conventional farming. Fy is a complete vegan protein and a source of fiber and other crucial nutrients because it contains all 20 amino acids, including the nine essential ones.
Our innovative fermentation system is relatively straightforward to use, consumes little energy and water, and produces a high-quality protein that is quick to harvest and produces little to no waste in a matter of days—making it equally suitable for use in space as it is on Earth.
Feeding with Fungi
Meatless breakfast patties and dairy-free cream cheese, two recently introduced vegan goods from Nature’s Fynd’s Fy that are sold in a few grocery stores in the US, including a few Whole Foods Market locations, also include Nature’s Fynd’s Fy protein. Using Fy, the business hopes to develop sustainable meals that feed people while also nourishing the environment, in addition to its unique study for feeding astronauts in space.
This summer, Nature’s Fynd completed the circle of the company’s origins by introducing its distinctive vegan products in Yellowstone National Park’s general stores and lodges, including Canyon Lodge, Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, Roosevelt Lodge, Old Faithful Snow Lodge, Old Faithful Inn, Lake Yellowstone Hotel, and Grant Village. The history of the Fy protein was significantly influenced by Yellowstone. Fusarium strain flavolapis was discovered in the park in 2008 by Mark Kozubal, PhD, a co-founder of Nature’s Fynd, who was looking for fungi that could withstand harsh conditions for NASA. In collaboration with the scientists at Nature’s Fynd, Kozubal identified the microbe from a sample he gathered without endangering the environment and developed a fermentation process that yielded Fy, an animal-free complete protein.
“When visiting Yellowstone National Park, it’s important that people see the opportunity to help the planet, not harm. We want our consumers to share in our optimism about the future of our planet and preserve the very place they’re visiting… That’s why we’re thrilled that our delicious, vegan foods made with Fy, our nutritional fungi protein, will be available to park goers,” said Karuna Rawal, Nature’s Fynd Chief Marketing Officer.
Nature Fynd’s use of microbial fermentation to produce meat and dairy substitutes has raised more than $500 million to date. This method is highly effective because it needs less land, no soil, no animal slaughter, and can produce protein continuously, unlike meat production, which is dependent on an animal’s biology. “There is this growing realization that microbes are pretty damn efficient. They make great protein and they do it really fast. You don’t have to plant a seed and harvest it six months later, and you can completely control the environment… There is a revolution going on in protein production and in the future I don’t think people care if the ‘cells’ are from cows or microbes. No one is attached to killing cows, as [Impossible Foods founder] Pat Brown would say, they just like the meat,” Jones told media outlet Foodnavigator-USA.
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