As Regulations Gets Closer, Upside Foods Acquires Cultivated Seafood Company Cultured Decadence

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California’s cultivated meat trailblazer Upside Foods has announced its acquisition of cultivated seafood Cultured Decadence. The Wisconsin-based cultivated seafood company will bring high-impact seafood products to the Upside portfolio. Combined capabilities and technical specificity will speed production. Cultured Decadence will adopt Upside’s brand name but remain in the Midwest as a production hub.

Cultured Decadence was founded in 2020. It has developed cell lines and feeds for the creation of seafood, specifically high-end crustaceans. It was founded on the principle of providing a sustainable and safe alternative to conventionally fished animals. Last year it netted $1.6 million in an oversubscribed pre-seed funding round in addition to a first-of-its-kind state-backed support grant. The company was the first North American interest to be focussed on lobsters and adjacent crustaceans.

Gearing up for success

Upside’s acquisition of Cultured Decadence comes after the completion of its new Engineering, Production and Innovation Center (named EPIC). The company claims it is the most technologically advanced facility of its kind. Both existing Upside products and newly adopted lines can all be manufactured using the proprietary multi-species platform.

Cultivated seafood is a growth area. Upside is seeking to embrace it, which further acknowledges the importance of scaling alternatives to commercial fishing.

“Seafood has a rich and delicious culinary tradition that makes it a favorite across the globe,” Dr. Uma Valeti, founder and CEO of Upside Foods said in a statement. “Cultivated seafood also has a tremendous potential to benefit the world. Cultured Decadence’s technology is incredibly promising, and their team is filled with passionate, smart individuals who want to make our favorite food a force for good. We’re thrilled to welcome the Cultured Decadence team to the Upside family and are excited that the scientific, technological, and production infrastructure we have built over many years can help accelerate the mission impact of this team.”

Crustaceans are the most energy-intensive branch of seafood production, mostly due to ineffective methodologies and poor capture rates. The trawlers needed to haul the marine life out of the water account for a vast amount of all fishing vessel emissions. According to the Ecological Society of America, crustacean fishing accounts for up to 94 percent of predicted increases in emissions within the fishing sector. Accelerated commercial production of cultivated alternatives offers an opportunity to prevent a worsening of the crisis. 

“We’ve long admired Upside’s innovation and leadership in the cultivated meat industry,” John Pattison and Ian Johnson, co-founders of Cultured Decadence said in a statement. “Upside’s unparalleled R&D and scale up capabilities will significantly accelerate the commercialization of cultivated delicious, sustainable and humane seafood. Uma and his team’s “Big Tent” mentality resonates deeply with our team, and we are incredibly proud and humbled to be joining such a talented group with  a deep shared sense of mission, purpose and commitment to doing the right thing. There’s nobody else we’d rather join to build the future of food.”

New year, one goal outstanding

Upside Foods, which was founded in 2015 and is the first American startup to focus on cultivated meat after European pioneer Mosa Meat created the world’s fist labgrown beef meatball, has enjoyed a prolific 2021. Following a rebrand from Memphis Meats to Upside Foods in May, it welcomed former PepsiCo senior vice president Amy Chen as COO in June. Inclusion in TIME’s 100 Best Innovations list added weight to the company’s exposure and in December, it went up against the USDA to argue about planned labeling terms.  Finishing on a high note, the company revealed successful development of a fetal bovine serum-free cell feed. One ambition remains unrealised; regulatory approval for commercial sale of cultivated meat products in the U.S., though Green Queen‘s Sonalie Figueiras predicts this will happen in 2022.

Originally slated to be in place by year-end, no announcements have been made to date. As of now, Singapore remains the only country in the world with commercial approval for the sale of cultivated meat, which was granted to fellow Californian company Eat Just

A recent video released by Israel’s SuperMeat shows the acceptance of cultivated meat being heralded as “an important moment in the history of humankind”. The startup conducted a double -blind taste test, in which renowned taster Michal Ansky failed to correctly identify the conventional chicken. The short film could prove pivotal in mainstream adoption of cultivated products, once approved for sale.


All images courtesy of Upside Foods.

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