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Fun With Fungi at SXSW 2022: Eating Yellowstone with help from NASA

By Laura Kobylecky

SXSW is always a source of interesting innovations. SXSW 2022 is no exception. This year at SXSW, Nature’s Fynd showed up to promote their new fungi-based protein. This protein is used to make things from vegan cream cheese to veggie burgers.

How did this product come to be? The answer involved NASA, U.S. National Science Foundation and Yellowstone National Park.  In 2012, Dr. Mark Kozubal discovered a fungus in Yellowstone National Park. This fungus was an “extremophilic fungal organism,” which means that it can grow in extremely harsh conditions (like a hot spring.) From there, the company now known as Nature’s Fynd, began to “convert inedible plant materials into valuable and sustainable products using the isolated fungus.”

If you want to learn more about that discovery process, NASA has a PDF with details:


Through the work of Dr. Mark Kozubal, Chief Science Officer, and Thomas Jonas, Chief Executive Officer,  Nature’s Fynd successfully created “Fy.”  This Fy is “a nutri­tion­al fun­gi pro­tein derived from a nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring microbe (Fusar­i­um strain flavolapis).” This protein is “cer­ti­fied non-GMO” and made through an  “inspired-by-nature fer­men­ta­tion process.”  The product is “a com­plete veg­an pro­tein source with all 20 amino acids, includ­ing the 9 essen­tial amino acids.” https://www.naturesfynd.com/

In addition to being a good source of protein, this product is also eco-friendly. This nutritional fungi protein uses 99% less land, 99% less water and 94% less greenhouse gas emission, when compared to beef, according to Thomas Jonas. He described this protein as a “protein platform.” Something that can be adapted to make a variety of meat or dairy replacement products.

But how does it taste? Fynd has been sampling all week, at a lounge for SXSW attendees outside the convention center. People eagerly consume small quarters of Fynd burgers and samples of chips and Fynd “cream cheese.”  I attended a brunch with a variety of Fynd products. There were sandwiches with Fynd patties (and “cheese” spread) as well as whipped Fynd “cheese” and berries.  They were good. I personally enjoyed the flavor and experience.

But the ramifications of this protein may stretch beyond the bounds of this planet. NASA is seeking “innovative and sustainable sources of food that can be easily produced with minimal resources.” Since “water is a precious resource in space…an ideal food source would require as little water as possible to nurture the food and to clean any materials used for cultivating.” If Fynd’s protein fits the bill, there is potential for this protein to be useful on the ISS (or other space ventures. Science that began in the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park may stretch into the stars.

For now, Nature’s Fynd will be selling their products at Whole Foods and other grocery retailers in the near future. The combination of NASA, nature, science and free snacks is another classic SXSW experience.