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Hong Kong-based Avant Meats, the city’s only startup working on cell-based protein, has just closed a US$3.1 million seed funding round. Avant received backing from prominent regional and international investors, including the chairman of the world’s largest responsible tilapia producer. The food tech says that the financing will help accelerate its scale-up plans towards the commercialisation of its cultivated fish in 2021.
Announced on Thursday (December 3), Avant Meats’ US$3.1 million seed round saw participation from major investors across the Greater China region, including China Venture Capital, Hong Kong’s first SFC-licensed startup investment platform AngelHub and ParticleX, as well as global leading alternative protein venture capital firms Lever VC, CPT Capital, Artesian, Loyal VC and 208 Seed Ventures. Notably, Markus Haefeli, the chairman of leading tilapia fish producer Regal Springs also backed Avant Meats in the round in a strong show of support for the cultivated seafood industry.
Commenting on their successful funding, Avant Meats co-founder and CEO Carrie Chan said: “Avant is pleased to be partnering with strategic investors who can support us with manufacturing know-how, customer relationships, and ongoing support. We will accelerate our work with the sustainable seafood and functional protein industries to accelerate adoption of our products into existing global supply chains.”
The startup says that the financing will go towards accelerating R&D and lowering production costs in order to bring their cultivated seafood products to market in 2021. Avant’s patent-pending technology produces animal-free proteins directly from fish cells, and it has been focused on developing cultivated fish maw and sea cucumber, both prized culinary delicacies in traditional Chinese cuisine and species that are now threatened with extinction due to rising demand.
We will accelerate our work with the sustainable seafood and functional protein industries to accelerate adoption of our products into existing global supply chains.Carrie Chan, Co-Founder & CEO of Avant Meats
It has since expanded its focus to cultivated fish, recently debuting the region’s first-ever prototype of fish fillet cultured directly using fish cells, presented in a cooking demonstration in November by prominent Hong Kong-based Chef Eddy, who served up a breaded fish fillet burger.
Cultivated fish is keenly watched by industry experts and investors, given that most scientific estimates believe most seafood species consumed by humans will go extinct by 2048 – a trend that is only increasing due to a spike in demand from the consumer trend of choosing seafood as their choice of protein over red meats in recent years.
“We see growing appetite for consuming and investing in cultivated meat among our investors,” said Karen Contet, co-founder and CEO of AngelHub. “AngelHub is proud to invest in Avant’s round. Avant’s food demos manifested how deep tech can enable sustainability initiatives.”
On top of the environmental concerns associated with the seafood industry that range from overfishing to plastic pollution, carbon emissions and bycatch, issues with food safety have also risen to the forefront amongst Asian consumers’ priorities, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and emerging aquaculture diseases like the Div1 shrimp virus with enormous potential to disrupt supply chains.
We see growing appetite for consuming and investing in cultivated meat among our investors.Karen Contet, Co-Founder & CEO of AngelHub
“In accordance with China’s 14th Five-Year Plan, we will continue to invest in companies with agricultural technology that secure supply chains and boost self-sufficiency in food production,” explained Wang Yijun, CEO of China Venture Capital.
While cultured meats have yet to hit the market, the industry is set to commercialise in the near future following Eat Just’s regulatory approval from Singapore authorities to begin using its cultivated chicken as an ingredient for a chicken bites product.