Of course, the latest moves from the industry’s Teslas, Apples, and Googles tend to dominate the tech news space — and with good reason. Yet tech titans aren’t the only ones bringing innovation to the industry.
In an effort to shine a light on promising startups, Built In launched The Future 5 across 11 major U.S. tech hubs. Each quarter, we’ll feature five tech startups, nonprofits, or entrepreneurs in each of these hubs who just might be working on the next big thing. You can check out the last quarter Chicago roundup here.
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Food and beverage manufacturing is essential in today’s world, however, modern methods used in industry often result in large amounts of waste. The beverage industry, in particular, produces a lot of waste water to make beverages like sodas and beer. To produce half a liter of soda, for example, it takes 70 liters of water, according to research by EOS Intelligence. And to make a quarter liter of beer, you need 74 liters of water.
Waste water from beverage production facilities produces surgical water that is food safe, but often ends up in reclamation centers.
To reduce the amount of wastewater ending up in recycling centers, the Chicago-based company Hyfe Foods has developed a fermentation process that takes water released from beverage production facilities and turns it into mycelium flour – which is high in fiber and protein.
Turn rejected sugar water into mycelium flour begins when Hyfé passes water through a fermentation process and uses it as food for mycelium, a fungus root found in nature. This process turns the mycelium into flour while removing sugar and other additives from the water. Hyfé then resells this recycled water to manufacturers so they don’t have to extract it from freshwater sources.
Behind Hyfé’s operations is chemical engineer Michelle Ruiz, who previously worked at Exxon where she oversaw wastewater treatment. She co-founded Hyfé in 2021 to reuse water used in beverage production and create foods without refined carbohydrates.
“When I was thinking about the characteristics of the mycelium, I was like, ‘How do we use it just to make alternatives to meat or dairy? ‘” Ruiz told Built In. “One particular category that means a lot to me is flour and flour products because I’m Hispanic and the hardest foods to quit eating are those that contain carbs. refined.”
When Ruiz was applying for grants for Hyfé, Andrea Schoen joined the startup as a co-founder.
Mushrooms produce so many different by-products that are of great value; it could really be a circular manufacturing process where you use someone’s waste, you create a product, and you use your by-products to create more valuable goods.
“Mushrooms produce so many different by-products that have great value; it could really be a circular manufacturing process where you use someone’s waste, you create a product, and you use your by-products to create more valuable goods,” Ruiz said.
Earlier this year, Hyfé closed its first financing investment, a $2 million pre-seed round led by The Engine with participation from Blue Horizon. With that money, Ruiz said Hyfé was able to hire key people, such as microbiologists and a process engineer who oversees the facility and production equipment. According to Ruiz, the company plans to continue hiring.
Early next year, Hyfé aims to have a prototype pasta product that tastes and textures identical to pasta consumers are familiar with. Along with the prototype, the company will also seek to launch a seed lift.
Ultimately, Ruiz also hopes to make Hyfé’s fermentation process scalable to help address food insecurity in other countries.