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Smithsonian: How a microbe from Yellowstone's hot springs could help feed the world

Claire Turrell

A Chicago startup has turned a fungus found by NASA into a protein-packed food

In 2009, NASA researcher Mark Kozubal stooped down by the side of a hot spring in Yellowstone National Park. On the harsh acidic water, he could see that a microbe was thriving: A mat of algae had formed on the surface. Carefully taking a spatula, he scooped up a fingernail-sized piece of the algal mat and placed it into a sterile tube.

Kozubal was leading a team of scientists who had been tasked with finding life in this extreme environment filled with steam vents and hot springs. It was research that could prove invaluable for space missions to the moons of Saturn or to Mars. But little did Kozubal know, the microbe he was carrying would be the genesis of one of the world’s most innovative food companies on Earth.

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