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NovoNutrients tweaks its bugs to turn CO2 into protein for people and pets

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The easiest way for a person to eat carbon dioxide is by consuming vegetables. David Tze wants his startup’s protein to be a close second.

Tze’s company, NovoNutrients, has been working on a way to use microbes to turn carbon dioxide into protein that can be used in food for humans and feed for animals. Now, Tze said the startup is working toward building a pilot plant in the San Francisco Bay Area that will produce protein for companies looking for alternative sources. 

To support the construction, NovoNutrients has raised an $18 million Series A round from investors, including Woodside Energy, an Australian energy company, TechCrunch has exclusively learned. The final tally includes $3 million that Woodside pledged last year.

NovoNutrients spent the last year preparing for its pilot plant, Tze said, including refining its bioreactor design. Once complete, the pilot will use much of the same equipment as a future commercial scale plant, making it an important proving ground for its designs and microbial strains.

NovoNutrients uses fermentation like other companies that turn carbon dioxide into more complex molecules. But unlike many of its competitors, it’s not using a big tank that resembles what you might see in a brewery. Instead, NovoNutrients employs thinner cylinders that are looped, which Tze said helps lower the amount of energy needed to mix the gases.

To produce those proteins, the company tailors the strains of microbes to digest waste streams with different gas mixes. For some products, the company can use synthetic biology techniques to improve the microbes’ stability and efficiency. But for natural products, Tze said, NovoNutrients uses evolution and gives it a boost. “Our most relevant strain development is actually the fact that we are able to tailor the strains through natural, non-GMO means to the specific mixed gases that will be available at a particular partner site,” he said.

NovoNutrients plans to make most of its money not by building and operating commercial-scale plants, but by selling microbes along with the licenses to build, operate and maintain the facilities. “We would also do marketing and business development for the products,” Tze said.

Getting to that point will take a bit of work, but Tze is confident that the pilot plant will produce the data needed to convince investors that a commercial-scale fermenter is worth the investment. The goal is to follow a “capital-light” path to market, he said.

In an unexpected twist, Tze said that he has spent more time talking with pet food companies over the last year. 

“In part, this has been a reaction to the widespread, decreased confidence and interest in alternative proteins for people,” he said. “On the other hand, it’s that the pet food sector has been faster to recognize the benefits of alternative protein.” It doesn’t hurt that people spend big on their pets, with total expenditures rising 78% from 2013 to 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“There are parts of the market where there’s a significant willingness to pay for ingredients including, but not limited to, hypoallergenic,” Tze said. Because NovoNutrients’ protein would be new in many pets’ diets, Tze said it shouldn’t pose a problem for pets with food allergies.



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CMF Phone 1 Review: A Phenomenal Budget Smartphone

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I’m coming up on 10 years of covering mobile phones, and after some time with the CMF Phone 1, I don’t think I have used a more perfect phone for the money. CMF is a sub-brand by Nothing, founded by Carl Pei of OnePlus fame. It’s been dabbling in ultralow-cost devices, like smartwatches and earbuds, but the CMF Phone 1 is its first Android phone. And it costs $199.

I make it a point to review cheap smartphones—I remember the days when I scrounged every penny I earned to buy my first smartphone, the $200 Samsung Galaxy Captivate in 2010. It’s important to help steer people on a limited budget to good devices. This year alone, I’ve tried the $150 Moto G Play and the $199 Galaxy A15—the latter of which I found to be a disappointing successor to the excellent Galaxy A14 from 2023. But none of these phones hold a candle to the CMF Phone 1, which blows its peers away.

Phenomenal Value

CMF’s design language for the Phone 1 is its first win. This device is far more visually interesting than any other $199 handset in the US. The industrial look comes alive when you embrace the $35 swappable back covers. Use the included screwdriver to pop off the screws and you can change the back to a different color. My choice was orange.

The screwdriver is a bit short, and so it’s a little hard to remove the screws—I can’t imagine changing the back often. This also doesn’t mean you’ll be able to start repairing stuff yourself or swap out the battery—CMF urges customers not to remove the battery without authorization (there’s a warning label on the battery). There’s disappointingly not much here to make repairs easier, unlike HMD’s new Skyline.

CMF Phone by Nothing

Photograph: Julian Chokkattu

Part of the fun is the Accessory Point, the little wheel at the right corner of the phone. Remove this thumbscrew and you can affix other accessories, like a lanyard, kickstand, or wallet. My favorite of the lot is the kickstand, and I dare say it doubles as a fidget spinner of sorts. Functional, fun, and nifty! CMF is even encouraging customers to 3D print accessories for it.

But all of these design tricks, while unique, aren’t what makes the CMF Phone 1 special. No, that’s the actual hardware, build, and specs. Instantly, my first impression after booting it up was its speed. In the time I spent with it, I don’t think I noticed any lag or stutters, which is rare on a $199 smartphone. That’s thanks to the MediaTek Dimensity 7300 inside with 8 gigs of RAM, but it also has a lot to do with the optimizations between the hardware and software, which is Nothing OS. (It’s still Android, but Nothing’s layer on the top offers a specific aesthetic with some tweaks, like the completely monochromatic theme on the home screen.)

OK, so no lag. Next, the battery life impressed. I made this my primary device as I traveled to Paris to cover Samsung’s Galaxy Unpacked event, and I went to bed some nights indifferent about plugging my phone in after seeing it had 50 percent left. That’s with navigation, music streaming via Bluetooth, messaging, and snapping pics. I’ve managed to push the 5,000-mAh battery with heavy usage and bring it down to 30 percent at the end of a day, but with average use, I was regularly getting two days out of it. (I cannot say the same about the $1,100 Samsung Galaxy Z Flip6.)



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NYT Strands hints, answers for July 21

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If you’re reading this, you’re looking for a little help playing Strands, the New York Times‘ elevated word-search game.

By providing an opaque hint and not providing the word list, Strands creates a brain-teasing game that takes a little longer to play than its other games, like Wordle and Connections.

If you’re feeling stuck or just don’t have 10 or more minutes to figure out today’s puzzle, we’ve got all the NYT Strands hints for today’s puzzle you need to progress at your preferred pace.

NYT Strands hint for today’s theme: S-words? (a cutting-edge theme!)

The hint really gets to the point.

Mashable Top Stories

Today’s NYT Strands theme plainly explained

The clue refers to types of swords.

NYT Strands spangram hint: Is it vertical or horizontal?

Today’s NYT Strands spangram is horizontal.

NYT Strands spangram answer today:

Today’s spangram is Blades.

NYT Strands word list for July 21

  • Claymore

  • Scimitar

  • Katana

  • Cutlass

  • Blades

  • Rapier

  • Machete

Looking for other daily online games? Find one you might like – or hints for another game you’re already playing – on Mashable’s Games page.





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The Gamma PS1 emulator for iOS gets Multitap support and better audio

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The Gamma PS1 emulator has gained a number of significant updates since it launched as one of the first console emulators for iPhones in May. Recent updates added a new “Enhance Audio” feature and better multiplayer support, joining other key updates over the last few weeks.

Developer Benjamin Stark (aka ZodTTD) told The Verge in an email that the Enhance Audio feature in his most recent update improves audio “using reverb and interpolation effects.” He also “added Multitap emulation” for games that used Sony’s adapter that expanded the PS1’s controller port count from two to four. (That was used for games like Crash Team Racing, NBA Jam: Tournament Edition, and more.)

In other recent updates, Stark added analog stick support for games that used the Sony Dual Shock controller and the ability to switch discs without going back to the main menu for multidisc games like Metal Gear Solid. He also introduced a new “Pro” upgrade for $4.99 that turns ads off entirely.



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