A Startup Based In Chicago Used A Fungus Discovered By NASA At Yellowstone National Park To Create Various Foods Packed With Protein That Have The Potential To Feed The World Sustainably

Stephen - - illustrative purposes only

In 2009, a NASA researcher named Mark Kozubal had been leading a team of scientists tasked with the challenge of studying the extreme environment of Yellowstone National Park.

The park is known for its steam vents and hot springs filled with harsh, acidic water. If the scientists could find life in such an inhospitable area, the research could be crucial for space missions.

Kozubal encountered microbes thriving in the water of a hot spring. He immediately scooped up a sample and sent it to the laboratory for further examination.

It wasn’t the first time a microbe had been found at Yellowstone. In 1966, scientists found a bug that was tolerant of the heat. It was called Thermus aquaticus and became the basis for PCR tests.

Initially, Kozubal believed that the microbe he discovered could become a new biodiesel source. However, at the time, gas was cheap in the United States, so it would’ve been difficult to compete with that.

Since the microbe came from the fungus family, Thomas Jones, former president of a packaging company, suggested they create food from it.

They launched the Chicago-based food company Nature’s Fynd in May 2018. It took them 18 months before they could generate a product that actually resembled food.

During the process, they worked with the microbe Fusarium str. Yellowstone and invented a technique called “liquid-air surface fermentation” that helped them replicate how the organism behaved in nature.

Kozubal and Jonas placed a cell of the fungus in water and fed it with sugar to make it grow. It multiplied within a few hours, and they sped up the process with a bioreactor.

Stephen – – illustrative purposes only

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