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Cell-based food tech BlueNalu has closed US$60 million in convertible note financing, in what is the largest funding round to date for the cultivated seafood industry. The food tech says that the capital will be used to fund its first commercial pilot facility to produce seafood directly from fish cells and accelerate its go-to-market plans for late 2021.
Announced on Tuesday (January 19), BlueNalu’s latest US$60 million debt financing, a record for the global cell-based seafood industry, was led by Rage Capital. Some of the other participating investors include Agronomics, Lewis & Clark AgriFood, McWin, and Siddhi Capital, and notably, existing investor KBW Ventures, the venture capital firm founded by Saudi Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud who was part of the startup’s US$20 million Series A round in February 2020.
The San Diego, California startup says that it will be using the latest capital to build and open its 40,000-square-foot pilot production facility in its home city to produce cell-based seafood products, starting with mahi mahi, followed by premium bluefin tuna.
BlueNalu says the funds will also enable the completion of its FDA regulatory review and marketplace testing ahead of its plan to commercially launch its seafood grown directly from the cells of fish across foodservice partners within the U.S. for late 2021 – potentially making it the first to do so in the country.
The team at BlueNalu is driven to produce cell-based seafood products that are healthy for consumers, humane for animals, sustainable for our planet, and provide increased food security to each nation in which we go to market.Lou Cooperhouse, President & CEO, BlueNalu
So far, the only other food tech that has managed to launch its cultivated proteins on the market is San Francisco-based startup Eat Just, who gained the world’s first regulatory approval from Singapore authorities for its cultured chicken bites in December 2020.
“The team at BlueNalu is driven to produce cell-based seafood products that are healthy for consumers, humane for animals, sustainable for our planet, and provide increased food security to each nation in which we go to market,” said Lou Cooperhouse, president and CEO of BlueNalu.
“This recent round of funding will allow us to continue advancing our mission and the next phase of our commercialisation plans, while we continue to develop strategic partnerships that we expect will provide us with global market reach during the coming years.”
Some of the concrete plans that BlueNalu is currently working on include establishing joint venture partnerships in key markets that it plans to operate, in order to “navigate regulatory pathways, lower the cost of goods, introduce new species and new product forms”. Collaborators include Netherlands-based Nutreco, Pulmuone in South Korea, Japan’s Sumitomo and Griffith Foods and Rich Products Corporation, both headquartered in the U.S.
KBW Ventures is pleased to play a role in the largest financing ever for a cell-based seafood company, aligning ourselves with mission-driven businesses that seek to solve the world’s food security issues sustainably.Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, Founder & CEO, KBW Ventures
“The global market for seafood is highly vulnerable today and is valued at an estimated US$200 billion. With strong investor support, our innovative and visionary management team demonstrates a clear value proposition, technology, IP, and a comprehensive regulatory strategy, all of which provide a solid foundation as we move closer to our in-market launch,” said Amir Feder, CFO of BlueNalu.
Commenting on its decision to back BlueNalu again, Prince Khaled of KBW Ventures said: “Our commitment to inject further capital is based on the company’s impressive forward roadmap, detailing a clear path to ramping up production and bringing its first product to market.”
“KBW Ventures is pleased to play a role in the largest financing ever for a cell-based seafood company, aligning ourselves with mission-driven businesses that seek to solve the world’s food security issues sustainably,” he added.
While there are still very few food techs using cellular agriculture to grow seafood, BlueNalu is certainly not alone in stepping up to meet the fast-growing and sustainable demand, especially as more consumers look to displace red meat with fish.
Hong Kong-based Avant Meats, for instance, recently debuted Asia’s first cultivated fish fillets, while Singapore’s Shiok Meats is focused on culturing crustacean meats like lobster and shrimp. In San Fransisco, Wildtype is cultivating sushi-grade salmon.
Lead image courtesy of BlueNalu.