Cell-based shrimp: Shiok Meats lands US$12.6m for commercial pilot plant launch
30 Sep 2020 --- Cell-based protein technology is making waves in the seafood category with Shiok Meats announcing its US$12.6 million Series A funding round. The finances will go toward building a “first-of-its-kind” commercial pilot plant from which the Singapore-based business plans to launch its minced shrimp product in 2022.
Shiok Meats works with 3D printing to add texture to synthesized shrimp meat grown from isolated stem cells. Its patent-pending technology can grow crustaceans four times faster than conventional production.
“Consumers are excited about the concept of cell-based meats. Surveys conducted by us and others show that the younger generation is more intrigued and want to look into alternative protein due to health and environmental aspects,” Dr. Sandhya Sriram, CEO and co-founder of Shiok Meats, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
When asked about the comparability of cultivated meat to conventionally farmed meat, Sriram responds: “Theoretically, yes, cell-based meats should deliver the same nutritional profile.”
Shiok Meats’ flagship products are marketed as offering clean, traceable alternatives to aqua farmed produce compromised by contamination from antibiotics, heavy metals and hormones.
“The novel food tech space has gained a lot more attention during the COVID-19 pandemic – investments in the sector and sales of plant-based meats have skyrocketed too,” says Dr. Sriram.
“The two most important things that we are working on are the sheer scale that we have to reach for mass consumption and bringing down the price.”
What’s on the menu?
The output of Shiok Meats’ pilot plant will be frozen cell-based shrimp meat for dumplings and other shrimp-based dishes. Beyond cell-based shrimp, the company plans to launch shrimp flavoring paste and powder, fully-formed “3D shrimp” and cell-based lobster and crab products in the coming years.
Cultivated crustacean meat is produced by harvesting stem cells from shrimps, lobsters and crabs, which are grown in nutrient-rich conditions, similar to that of a greenhouse.
After four-to-six weeks, the cell-based seafood produced is “exactly the same as its conventional counterpart but more sustainable, clean and nutritious,” as detailed by Shiok Meats.
Sustainable aquaculture investment fund Aqua-Spark is the lead investor in Shiok Meats’ Series A round. “The cell-based animal protein industry has been on our radar for some time as once it is at scale it will have an enormous influence on food production efficiency, food safety, and the environment,” comment Mike Velings and Amy Novogratz, co-founders of Aqua-Spark.
“While we’ve invested in a number of technologies working to make shrimp farming more efficient, healthier and less polluting, Shiok Meats is the first company in our portfolio to focus on shrimp production.”
An alternative route to “crowded” factories and farms
The shrimp market is worthUS$50 billion globally with Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and India being the major producers of shrimp, highlights Shiok Meat. While there are many farms and technologies improving shrimp farming, there is still a lot of work to be done.
“Most of what is currently on the market is raised in crowded factories and farms and treated with antibiotics, chemicals and hormones,” the company stresses.
“Conventional production processes often contribute to overfishing, excessive bycatch, misrepresentation and mislabeling, as well as contamination with effluents, heavy metals and microplastics.”
This form of production is unsustainable and the sector strain is expected to only increase as the population grows.
Clean meat potential
Clean meat production could reduce the industry's greenhouse gas emissions by 96 percent, energy consumption by 45 percent, land use by 99 percent and water consumption by 96 percent, the company underscores.
“As a deep-tech VC firm devoted to solving societal and environmental issues, Real Tech Fund strongly believes that Shiok Meats will play a game-changing role in solving the climate and protein crisis,” comments Japan-based investor Real Tech Holdings.
“We are thrilled to support Shiok Meats’ next phase of growth by opening up doors to Japan, one of the world's largest seafood market and fast-growing deep-tech scene.”
South Korea-based Yellowdog Empowers Fund, adds: “As the current shrimp production endangers coastal ecosystems by removal of mangroves and forests, we expect cell-based shrimp production by Shiok Meats to deliver healthy and cruelty-free options to consumers.”
“This is while preserving the mangroves of Asia, which constitute more than 70 percent of global shrimp farming.”
Industry eyes opportunities in cellular agriculture
Cellular agriculture has been gaining ground over the last year. Last summer, Singapore-based venture capital firm and business accelerator Big Idea Ventures attracted more investors to its alternative protein fund, including Bühler, Tyson and Temasek.
As the cell-based meat movement gathers pace in Asia, similar moves are being made in Europe. Dutch start-up Mosa Meat is another step closer to the commercial production of cultured beef following a new financing round that has seen the Bell Food Group invest a further €5 million (US$5.6 million).
Meanwhile, new research has indicated growing acceptance for cultured meat and reduced-meat diets in Germany and France – in spite of a strong sense of tradition and culture still holding sway over consumer attitudes in these markets.
By Benjamin Ferrer
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