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Tech Startup: MycoTechnology


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Where: Aurora / Web: www.mycotechcorp.com / founded: 2013

Initial Lightbulb

Dr. Kelly Brooks’ work with fungus at Penn State University has mushroomed into a spinoff startup in Colorado.

Happy Valley, Penn., was just the place for such a company to take root: Penn State “happens to have the largest collection of fungi in the world,” says Alan Hahn, CEO and co-founder with Brooks, the company’s chief science officer, COO Pete Lubar, and VP of Product Management James Langan.

Building off Kelly’s research into mushroom root structures – mycelium – the premise of MycoTechnology’s business is to use fungi to strip bitterness and other unpalatable aspects – such as gluten – from products ranging from chocolate to wheat.

The company received its first patents this spring and has the capability to work on hundreds of different foods once the requisite mushrooms are ready. “It takes about 100 days to train fungi,” Hahn says.

Based at a production facility with a lab and a tasting room, the eight-employee company’s myceliation processes make for better flavors and healthier food, and helps reduce the amount of food waste ultimately in landfills.

“It truly is the next generation of food processing,” Hahn says. “It’s not covering up flavors with sugar. It’s actually removing bitterness.”

In A Nutshell

In 2013, the first myceliation target was coffee. The company requested beans from several roasters, treated them, and returned them less bitter, richer and tastier. The roasters “had never found a technique that would remove one taste defect without adding a new taste defect,” Hahn says.

Next, staffers discovered how to remove bitterness from chocolate and other undesirable flavors in green tea and stevia sweeteners, then developed a process to take gluten and turn it into 40 percent more protein in wheat.

The impacts of the technology are far ranging, from chocolate chip cookies with two-thirds the sugar to barley for beer with a different flavor profile. To the latter end, MycoTech is currently working with Coda Brewing in Aurora. Using myceliated grain in a stout “softens the back end,” Hahn says.

The market

Enormous. Hahn points out that coffee is the second biggest commodity market in the world, after crude oil, totaling around $100 billion annually. Chocolate is third, at about $80 billion.

Financing

“We’re in the final stages of closing a Series A,” Hahn says. “It will allow us to expand rapidly. We’ll be hiring and expanding.”

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Eric Peterson

Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com

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