A FISH OUT OF WATER
Startups pioneer alternative sources of fish
Seafood is a critical protein source for the growing global population, but overfishing is causing the decimation of fish populations, which further destabilizes compromised ocean environments. To mitigate aquatic population depletion while satisfying growing consumer demand for seafood, the following startups are pioneering the development of lab-grown or otherwise alternative sources of fish.
Good Catch, a startup that produces plant-based alternatives to seafood, recently netted $10 million in funding and counts Thrive Market and Fresh Direct as investors. Good Catch currently offers pouches of plant-based tuna (which contain 14 grams of protein and retail for $4.99 each) and is formulating a line of frozen “seafood” entrees for release in 2020. While Good Catch’s offerings are 100% plant-based and formulated without dairy, gluten, and GMOs, it’s more notable that the chickpea- and lentil-based “seafood” is free of shellfish allergens and the mercury, plastic, and microfibers that currently contaminate ocean-harvested seafood.
San Francisco-based startup Wild Type has found a way to produce lab-grown salmon. Unlike alternative seafood brand Good Catch, the resulting product is neither vegan nor plant-based: Wild Type has developed technology and processes that grow salmon from stem cells to provide a slaughter-free alternative to conventional salmon. While the company currently can only produce small pieces of salmon (which would retail at too high a price for most consumers), it plans to be able to produce larger slabs of the salmon at a more competitive price to keep up with the growing consumer demand for this nutritious fish.
Bay Area-based startup Finless Foods, which was co-founded by two molecular biologists, focuses on growing lab-based bluefin tuna. Finless Foods’ process for doing so involves the biopsy and isolation of live tuna cells, which are then cultivated in bioreactors that nurture the cells in a mixture of protein, sugar, and vitamins. The end goal of this process is to produce sustainable and mercury-free tuna that doesn’t contribute to overfishing and environmental harm. The startup aims to bring its tuna to market by the end of this year.