mHUB member Hyfe Foods is dedicated to creating the foods you love without the carbs OR the carbon footprint. CEO and Founder Michelle Ruiz founded Hyfé as a reflection of both her and her family's personal health. Her knowledge from working in the oil and gas industry on top of her passion for the planet made this a no-brainer. mHUB sat down with Michelle to dive deeper into the value proposition and what may be on the horizon.
Where did your idea and value proposition start?Hyfé Foods was conceived in a time when COVID forced me to pause and reflect on my purpose within my personal and professional lives. For a few years I had been worried about my family’s nutrition and history of diabetes. While my mom was working hard to prevent pre-diabetes, I was frustrated about how difficult it is to avoid refined carbohydrates in the foods that we eat. I also felt a growing sense of cognitive dissonance about caring deeply about our planet but working in the oil and gas industry to maximize the profitability of fossil fuels. Since my first day working at a refinery wastewater treatment plant, I’ve been amazed with how effortlessly microorganisms grow when they consume contaminants in water. If you didn't know, that’s how water gets cleaned! And what happens next? They get dumped in a landfill. I quickly realized that our process was responsible for making tons of carbon-rich material turn into methane. Methane is 86 times more potent than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere, and globally, landfills are the third largest anthropogenic source of methane. I recognized that if an oil refinery generates this much wastewater, a corn or potato refinery does too. So, I started looking into the food processing industry. Turns out, it’s the third most water-intensive sector and generates some of the toughest wastewater to treat. Treating wastewater from olive oil mills, breweries, and starch refiners can produce up to 125 times the biomass than an oil refinery! I realized that if I could take safe-to-consume wastewater streams, and clean them with an edible organism, the biomass that would normally go to the landfill could become food instead. Queue, Hyfé Foods.
What led you to mHUB?
I needed to find a space that I could run experiments in because I outgrew my apartment hallway! After some googling, I found mHUB and realized that in addition to space, it offered programming that would help me learn how to found a business. I've really enjoyed learning and being inspired by this community of makers.
How has your company grown since launch?
The company has been focused on R&D. I've grown flour at a small scale and have expanded my team to optimize the science that will make flour production scalable. The beauty of fungi is that it is highly, highly tunable and you can make it grow into whatever you want with some tinkering!
Next, I am looking to add two believers with entrepreneurial spirit to the team. The first is someone with Direct-to-Consumer branding experience in CPG. The second is someone with a mycology or chem/bio engineering background. I am also looking for food manufacturing partners that are interested in lowering their carbon footprint and have waste streams that we can test. If you want to follow our journey, join our inner circle at https://www.hyfefoods.com/innercircle. A fun newsletter is on the horizon!