Alternative seafood brand Aqua Cultured Foods says it has closed one of the largest pre-seed funding rounds for a food tech company in the biofermentation protein space.
Aqua Cultured Foods’ oversubscribed funding closed at $2.1 million with capital from Supply Change Capital, Aera VC, Sustainable Food Ventures, Hanfield Venture Partners, Lifely VC, Conscience VC, Kingfisher Capital, Big Idea Ventures, and Swiss Pampa.
“Interest at this stage has frankly exceeded our capacity to bring in partners, leading to an oversubscribed round, but it’s left us in a good position for future investment and very optimistic about our approach to delivering more sustainable protein,” Aqua CEO Anne Palermo said in a statement.
According to the brand, the funding will go toward continued research and development efforts on its “whole muscle” sushi-quality tuna and whitefish, as well as popcorn shrimp, calamari, and scallops made from its microbial fermentation method.
“The microbial-based fermentation method that Aqua has developed not only brilliantly mimics the look and mouth-feel of a whole fish filet — the holy grail in alt-proteins — but it dramatically reduces the environmental footprint of the mainstream seafood supply chain,” said Shayna Harris, co-founder and managing partner of Supply Change Capital. “In addition, the nutritional integrity is unparalleled by anything else we have looked at in this space.”
Unlike cultivated meat that’s grown via tissue samples from live animals, Aqua Cultured Foods doesn’t use animal sources or genetic modifications. The technology produces a sustainable protein less reliant on resources common in commercial aquaculture.
Displacing ocean-sourced fish is critical to the future of the food system and the health of the oceans.
The fishing and fish farming industries are linked to severe disruption of the world’s oceans. Once abundant bluefin tuna are now listed as endangered; and inefficient fishing methods still create enormous amounts of bycatch, including turtles and dolphins, despite efforts to regulate the industries. Fish farms also create unnatural amounts of waste, pesticides, and antibiotics that can acidify and pollute coastal environments.
According to the United Nations, 95 percent of global ocean damage is linked to bottom trawling, a common, destructive fishing method.
And some experts suggest that by 2050, plastic particles could outnumber fish in the world’s oceans; plastic poses threats to the animals who eat it, and it can also reduce the oceans’ ability to sequester carbon. Plastic affects the health of marine phytoplankton, which play a significant role in carbon sequestration. Around 25 percent of all carbon is absorbed by the oceans.
For Aqua Cultured Foods, funding will also go to expand its core team, including the appointment of Bob Schultz as lead scientist. Schultz was instrumental in growing Simulate, the maker of plant-based chicken brand Nuggs. He served as the lead food engineer and product lead for the vegan nuggets. The team now also includes executive chef and restaurateur Johnny Carino in the head of culinary innovation position.
“Our next step is to work on commercializing our products,” says Palermo, “from lab-scale to bring to the foodservice and retail channels, including the fresh refrigerated set for grocery, so that our products can reach both restaurant tables and the seafood counter.”