BlueNalu nets new funding for cell-based seafood products
Lou Cooperhouse, BlueNalu’s President + CEO, standing in front of their headquarters and pilot food production facility in San Diego; Photo Courtesy of BlueNalu
With a new round of funding secured, the California-based company aims to make the first products available to US diners in the near future.
BlueNalu, a US provider of cell-based seafood cultured in bioreactors, announced last week that it had recently secured US$60 million in financing. This comes in addition to the financing round of US$20 million announced in early 2020. “This will help us finance our work until the next milestone, allowing us to get our pilot facility completed and equipped, and the documentation in place to meet the requirements of the FDA,” said President and CEO Lou Cooperhouse. “As soon as we have met both of these requirements, we will be able to launch our first product to restaurants in the US.”
Speaking at an online event, Cooperhouse touted the potential of cell-based seafood compared to traditional fishing and aquaculture. Wild fishery is lagging due to depleted stocks, and aquaculture is struggling to make up for those shortfalls, he noted, adding that provisions of fish and seafood are highly vulnerable due to their globe-spanning supply chains (the US, for instance, imports 90 percent of its seafood). Not only does the industry have a devastating impact on animal stocks, coral reefs, and other oceanic ecosystems, but the product yield in restaurants is only 50 to 60 percent due to losses or spoilage in transport and the fact that many animal parts such as fins, tails, bones, or skin are discarded.
“This highly inefficient approach leads to variations in supplies, quality, and freshness of products,” said Cooperhouse. “Our cell-based product can be 100 percent local, with an environmental footprint that will be transformative for the entire global supply chain.” The ability to make seafood in close proximity to consumers in a bioreactor also means that the products can be demand-driven and responsive to the wishes of the customers, rather than being supply-restricted and determined by what catch is available on any given day.
BlueNalu has already developed well over 100 stable cell lines for mahi mahi, bluefin tuna, red snapper, and other fish species, with more planned for the future. The company’s goal is to complete its pilot facility in San Diego and have limited amounts of product commercially available over the next year, with full-scale commercialization a realistic prospect in the not-too-distant future.
“The BlueNalu team has done a stellar job with each step of the growth process,” said Chuck Laue, a board member and investor in BlueNalu and founder and chair of Stray Dog Capital. “They have assembled a highly capable and mission-driven team with experience in myriad disciplines, and they are going to change the way the world consumes seafood. They are using science, technology, engineering and innovation to protect our planet. I’m excited and honored to participate in such an important venture.”
While the nascent cell-based meat industry in the US is experiencing a great deal of pushback from the strong lobby of traditional beef, pork, and chicken producers, Cooperhouse notes that there has been less opposition from the seafood industry. “We do not expect as much competition from the US fishing industry because we are targeting species that are typically imported from overseas, illegally fished, or have a high mercury content,” he says. “We see ourselves as working with existing players, and complementing our global supply chain of seafood, rather than being in competition.” Ultimately, he anticipates that there will be three ways of sourcing fish and seafood – from wild catch, conventional aquaculture, and cellular aquaculture via cell-based processes.
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