Chinova Bioworks—a startup in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada—was cofounded by CEO Natasha Dhayagude, who has focused on hiring women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. To date, she has put together a startup company where 90% of its team are women technology workers. The company has focused on isolating fiber from white mushroom stems, which not only demonstrates a preservative effect in foods, but can also be used as a fining agent in beer.

Why women and STEM? “Providing opportunities for women in STEM fields is important to me because I am a women minority in STEM and have been navigating this career path my whole life without any mentors, so I know what it’s like for other women who are trying to get into these positions of influence,” says Dhayagude. “Because I know how challenging it can be, I’m committed to provide equal opportunities for women who look like me, and seek out collaboration opportunities with other female founders in the industry.”

Dhayagude puts her money where her mouth is. She has been actively collaborating with female-run companies; for example, Chrisoda, Miyoko’s Creamery and No Evil Foods. Dhayagude says working with female founders provides her with a great opportunity to learn from their hurdles and successes while improving their mission and products.

Mushroom fiber as a fining agent

Chinova Bioworks recently launched a research initiative with the College Communautaire du Nouveau Brunswick’s (CCNB) INNOV centre, backed by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Innovation Voucher Fund to develop a new processing aid for beer brewers.

Chinova has been applying its clean-label ingredient expertise with CCNB, which has been developing brewing and distilling technologies for years. The research project focuses on developing a new application for the company’s proprietary white button mushroom fiber, Chiber, as a rapid fining agent for breweries. For brewers and beers that may not pass vegan muster, this material will allow them to switch to vegan practices.

Some brewed beers and other alcoholic beverages can include animal-based compounds that are added throughout the production process. These can include foaming agents, carmine, isinglass, which are used in the production and filtering process to make drinks appear cleaner and brighter. Chinova’s technology would provide brewers a vegan alternative to animal-based fining agents. So far, test results have shown Chiber works eight times faster at settling yeast post-fermentation

“People are searching for vegan and plant-based options for every aspect of their lifestyle, so we are committed to innovating and providing sustainable solutions based off our white button mushroom fiber technology,” says David Brown, COO and co-founder of Chinova Bioworks.

Chiber is a pure fiber extracted from the stems of white button mushrooms, and does not contain any allergenic materials from the mushroom. The product is odorless and tasteless and doesn’t alter the taste, color or consistency of the beverage.

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