Ever wonder what’s lying at the bottom of Yellowstone National Park’s volcanic hot springs? Monsters? Aliens? How about a healthy vegan dinner?
Sustainable Bioproducts, a Chicago-based startup says it has discovered a vegan protein sourced from a volcanic microorganism found in the nation’s favorite national park.
“Curiosity and passion for exploration led us to Yellowstone, one of the harshest ecosystems in the world,” Sustainable Brands CEO Thomas Jonas said. “By observing how life optimizes the use of resources in this challenging environment, we have invented a way to make protein that is radically more efficient and gentler on our planet.”
“What we have here is a super protein,” Jonas told Business Insider in a recent interview. “And it comes from one of the most pristine wild places on the planet.”
The company launched publicly earlier this month with $33 million in funds from Silicon Valley and two leading global food suppliers — grain giant Archer Daniels Midland and France’s Danone.
What Sustainable Bioproducts has discovered is a microorganism that contains all nine essential amino acids. It can be produced through a process similar to brewing beer. And according to Jonas, has a neutral taste that works mixed into yogurts or into vegan burgers.
The discovery comes as major food producers are racing to meet the dietary needs of a growing population. Leading food producers including Tyson, Nestlé, and Unilever, have all ventured into vegan categories including plant-based protein.
Sustainable Bioproducts says its products will require “a fraction” of natural resources typically used in producing other proteins including meat and nuts.
“In place of wasteful factory farms or large parcels of land,” Business Insider notes, “all they need is essentially a series of brewer’s vats.”
If growing meat in vats sounds familiar, you may be thinking about cell-based meat, also called slaughter-free or clean meat. This process takes cells from animals — a skin or feather swab, for example — and “grows” them in a similar process to the Sustainable Bioproducts vat brewing.
But growing microorganisms is faster than growing meat from cells, Jonas says. And the company is preparing for a 2021 market launch.