Hyfé Foods, a sustainable foodtech company that produces low-carb, protein-rich mycelium flour, recently announced an oversubscribed $2 million investment led by The Engine, the venture firm spun out of MIT that invests in early-stage Tough Tech companies. Other investors participating in the pre-seed round include: Blue Horizon, Caffeinated Capital, Supply Change Capital, Lifely, Gaingels, Hack Ventures, and angel investors including restaurateurs and founders. In addition, Hyfé was awarded a Department of Energy (DOE) grant through the Chain Reaction Innovations (CRI) Accelerator at Argonne National Labs. This funding will accelerate Hyfé’s timeline to scale up toward commercialization.
Hyfé Foods is valorizing wasted sugar water from food and beverage manufacturers as feedstock to produce mycelium flour for a variety of food products. The company has developed a carbon-neutral method to produce affordable, high protein, low-carb, and allergen-free flour products. Their technology is versatile among supply chains and environmental conditions; conserving water and improving food access throughout society. Flour is a food staple that for years has contributed to chronic disease due to its high levels of refined carbohydrates and prominence in diets across the globe.
The food system accounts for 70% of all freshwater use and 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Hyfé’s use of upcycled water feedstocks not only reduces the water intensity of fermentation but also diverts these feedstocks from wastewater treatment facilities, which generate significant amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas with a 20-year global warming potential 84-86 times that of carbon dioxide.
Hyfé believes that the future of food isn’t just sustainable production, it has to be healthy for people as well. “A bowl of Hyfé pasta has as much protein as a chicken breast, is high in fiber and has no refined carbs. We’re on a mission to make food better for you as well as better for the planet,” said co-founder and CEO Michelle Ruiz. “Hyfé’s mycelium flour tastes and acts just like wheat flour, enabling people to eat the foods they love without negative health impacts. We are leveraging biotechnology to produce this ingredient that is carbon neutral, at scale, and at a very low cost.”
In addition to the health benefits, enabling localized mycelium production benefits humanitarian efforts to combat food shortages as industrial-scale growth of the protein is decoupled from agriculture, making it possible to produce in remote or poor agricultural quality environments.
“In the face of supply chain and climate uncertainty, regionalized production of healthy food is vital to a circular economy and more importantly, ensuring global food security. Hyfé stands out because it operates at the intersection of climate and health and uniquely delivers a cost-effective solution,” said Katie Rae, CEO and Managing Partner at The Engine. “We were impressed with Michelle and Andrea’s vision for discovering a way to produce nutritious food at scale without the need for agriculture, fresh water, or much space. The diversity of thinking, passion for the mission, drive and excellence of execution positions them to succeed.”
Hyfe Foods was co-founded in 2021 by CEO Michelle Ruiz and CTO Andrea Schoen, former ExxonMobil and LanzaTech engineers. Ruiz, an immigrant from Ecuador, is a Carnegie Mellon chemical engineer with more than a decade of manufacturing experience, with bioengineering expertise in wastewater treatment. Schoen is a Northwestern and University of Wisconsin bioengineer and registered patent agent who supported the startup of the world’s first commercial-scale gas fermentation plant.