The First Cultivated Seafood Company from Africa
Cultured seafood, synthetically grown from fish or crustacean cells in a bioreactor, is being touted as one of the next major developments in the food industry. Most of the small but growing number of companies in the sector of cultured meat are based in the US, Europe, and Asia. However, the cutting-edge technology is also gaining a foothold on the African continent. Supertrends spoke to Marica Quarsingh, the CEO of Africa’s first cultured seafood company.
In 2020, Marica Quarsingh’s promising energy efficiency project was brought to a halt by the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of looking backward, however, this resilient entrepreneur found new business opportunities in cell-based meat, a novel protein source that is viewed as a potential solution to global food sustainability, a concept very close to her heart. She nicknamed her project “Mermaid X”.
Marica Quarsingh, forward-thinking businesswoman, entrepreneur, and founder of Sea-Stematic from South Africa.
An innovative business idea with collaboration in mind
Global demand for animal-based food is growing rapidly and contributes significantly to the depletion of natural resources. At the same time, consumers are more and more conscious of health- and environment-related factors and are looking for sustainable alternatives. As a seasoned businessperson, Quarsingh quickly identified cultured meat as one of the innovations that could potentially disrupt the traditional meat industry.
“We are out to collaborate, not compete.”
After studying various cultured meat products more closely, she decided that cultivated seafood was where she wanted to go. “Seafood has a very big market, especially in Asia. Globally, less than ten companies are working on cultivated seafood. There is lots of space for everyone. We are out to collaborate, not compete.”
Accordingly, Quarsingh founded her own cultured fish manufacturing company, called Sea-Stematic in South Africa. She utilized her talents and network to position Sea-Stematic with an international outlook in terms of R&D activities, funding, and marketing strategies. China is one of the major markets Quarsingh wants to target. “We know that the Chinese may be able to produce cultivated seafood themselves. But the market is big enough, and we and the Chinese local producers may become strategic partners.”
The future outlook for Sea-Stematic
Under Quarsingh’s leadership, Sea-Stematic embarked on an ambitious path, yet one that is unusual for a start-up. The company is working in parallel on all fronts.
“We brought in the scientists who have the necessary know-how, and we also brought in the human element. We want to be an exciting company that delivers honest products.”
On the technology side, Sea-Stematic is working with a team of international scientists to establish various cell lines of fish species, creating a plant-based scaffold, and developing a glycan-based extra-cellular matrix-like growth media. Quarsingh is targeting a timeline of two to four years to have the product ready for the market. While the technology is being further developed, the company is also working on marketing strategy and brand-building. “We brought in the scientists who have the necessary know-how, and we also brought in the human element. We want to be an exciting company that delivers honest products,” says the CEO, who has clearly set high goals for herself and for her firm.
Despite her ambitious goals, money is not everything for Quarsingh. She firmly believes that business has to make sense. It has to be sustainable and entail tangible benefits for the world in which we live. “You can throw money at me. But if the business doesn’t make sense, I will throw it right back,” she notes. It is a bold claim, but Quarsingh is convinced that cultivated seafood is exactly the kind of business that makes sense, both economically and for the planet.