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Michelle Ruiz

Co-Founder & CEO, Hyfé Foods
Startup Project

Hyfé Foods


Producing low-carb, protein-rich fungi flour.


Food & Ag, Biotech & Life Sciences, Advanced Manufacturing


LanzaTech, ExxonMobil, Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern

“Hyfé is taking submerged fermentation technology to the next level by using fungi to upcycle sugar-rich wastewater and turn it into nutritious flour. Alongside diverting waste streams from landfills, we’re introducing an affordable way of producing food that has the power to further food sovereignty around the world.”

Combining Skills and Experiences to Fill in the Gaps

"We’re a little bit different from a lot of the companies that come out of Blueprint in the sense that our concept didn’t spin out from academic research. My co-founder Andrea and I collectively have 21 years of industry experience. Andrea has a Masters in synthetic biology and has spent quite a bit of time in the lab, but not as a PhD. I used to run a wastewater treatment plant for an oil and gas refinery, so I had experience with less obvious industrial scale fermentation.

Through our collective understanding of gaps in the industry and bringing together our unique skill sets, we decided to start Hyfé with the perspective that there are technologies that could be used for broader applications, and for markets with unmet needs: How can we pool our knowledge to make those technologies successful at a commercial scale, from both a financial and a climate change standpoint?"

Connecting the Dots Between Industries

"At the wastewater treatment plant, we were producing tons of biomass byproduct that would end up getting sent to the landfill and at our plant, water scarcity was a serious risk we prepared for. That got me thinking, "Hey, wait a minute. The processes that we have to make gasoline are very similar to the processes that you need to refine corn and turn it into sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or corn oil. I would be very surprised if they aren’t facing very similar issues.

In exploring this concept, my co-founder Andrea, and I developed a process to use refined sugars to make fungi flour, which is a flexible, high-protein, low-carb substitute for traditional and alternative flours. Grains and its byproducts tend to have a lot of refined sugars, which are one of the leading causes of chronic illness. This aligned with a personal mission for me because of my family’s history with diabetes. The fungi act as a machine. You put sugar into this machine, pulling a couple of levers, and then the fungi convert these sugars into more useful sources of carbon.

We’re expecting to see a future where food and food supply as we knew it five years ago gets redefined. Right now, it’s getting redesigned, and that’s all as a response to the supply chains that have been very broken, and further exacerbated by reduced yield with climate change, natural disasters affecting production, and political instability.

Hyfé is introducing a way of producing food that could be distributed across the world wherever there is a food manufacturer with these waste streams - really allowing different regions of the world to have further food sovereignty through cheap, nutritious flour (which is in everything). Resources are scarce and climate change is only getting worse, so how do we use what we already have to maximize the benefit for humanity and reduce emissions?"

Value Chain and How That Affects Your First Milestones

"Coming into the Blueprint program, the first introduction event we went to really helped us build a lot of relationships. We were getting ready to start fundraising, and it was a really good opportunity to meet people in person, especially associates and partners from The Engine.

Throughout the program, it was really cool to meet other founders and hear common questions that we were also asking ourselves. My favorite session was one where we talked about value chains and then really figuring out what the scope of the marketplaces you intersect looks like. I thought it was really interesting to figure out how the overall picture of the value chain guides your strategy when it comes to questions like, ‘What does a pilot scale run look like?’ or, ‘What does a first commercial partnership look like?’ We’re still working through those details and trying to figure out what that means for us, but Blueprint was what kickstarted our thinking on those questions, and laid a strong framework for us to work off of."