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Startup gets $ 20 million in funding to make lab-grown seafood as an alternative to commercial fishing

Lab-farmed fish is real: San Diego start-up gets $ 20 million in funding to develop yellowtail derived from muscle tissue cells taken from real fish

  • BlueNalu is a San Diego startup that makes lab-grown seafood
  • The company says its products are ethical and sustainable alternatives to commercial fishing and are made from real muscle tissue cells from fish
  • The new round of financing will help the company expand its production facilities

A San Diego startup has raised $ 20 million in Series A support to expand its lab-farmed fishing business as an ethical and sustainable alternative to commercial fishing.

The funding will help BlueNalu build a manufacturing facility and launch a new pilot program that will bring the product one step closer to the market.

Unlike other recent meat substitutes, such as the plant-based Impossible Burger, BlueNalu’s seafood products are grown from real fish muscle cells.

BlueNalu is a San Diego startup that produces seafood in a lab, using real muscle tissue cells from anesthetized fish in a stem cell mixture to create lab-grown seafood

BlueNalu is a San Diego startup producing seafood in a lab, using real muscle tissue cells from anesthetized fish in a stem cell mixture to create lab-grown seafood

Chris Dammann, BlueNalu’s Chief Technical Officer, described the company’s manufacturing process as “an extraordinary technical achievement.”

“When we started this business, there was very little science available about long-term reproduction of fish muscle cells and no reliable culture protocol,” Dammann told San Diego Union Stand.

“To make a complete muscle product from fish cells grown without genetic modification, a lot of innovation was needed.”

BlueNalu’s main product to date has been yellowtail amberjack, which unlike other alternative seafood products is resistant to a wide variety of cooking techniques and preparations.

“Our yellowtail medallions can be cooked via direct heat, steamed or even fried in oil; can be marinated in an acidified solution for applications such as poke, ceviche and kimchi, or can be prepared raw, “said CEO Lou Cooperhouse.

The yellowtail is produced by first extracting muscle tissue from a live anesthetized fish.

The sample is treated with stem cells and enzymes and then placed in a bioreactor, where the cells are fed a nutrient-rich solution of vitamins, salts, lipids, sugar, plant proteins and amino acids, causing the original cells to start replicating.

The fish cell solution is then spun in a centrifuge to separate the newly cultured tissue from excess liquids and other waste material.

Unlike other seafood alternatives, BlueNalue says its yellow-tailed amber jacket can withstand almost any cooking technique, be it a ceviche or a high temperature, without falling apart

Unlike other seafood alternatives, BlueNalue says its yellow-tailed amber jacket can withstand almost any cooking technique, be it a ceviche or a high temperature, without falling apart

Unlike other seafood alternatives, BlueNalue says its yellow-tailed amber jacket can withstand almost any cooking technique, be it a ceviche or a high temperature, without falling apart

Unlike the Impossible Burger, BlueNalu's yellowtail amberjack is not made from plant products, but instead grown from real fish cells and in a bioreactor, then 3D printed in a fillet form

Unlike the Impossible Burger, BlueNalu's yellowtail amberjack is not made from plant products, but instead grown from real fish cells and in a bioreactor, then 3D printed in a fillet form

Unlike the Impossible Burger, BlueNalu’s yellowtail amberjack is not made from plant products, but instead grown from real fish cells and in a bioreactor, then 3D printed in a fillet form

The cells are then combined with a finishing solution called ‘bio-ink’ and run through a 3D printer, which forms them into a fillet shape.

Dammann believes that the convenience of not having to deal with bones or scales or clearing away internal organs will help consumers overcome any stigmas they might have about eating something that came from a lab.

“We are no more lab-made than ketchup or Oreos,” he said. “They all started in a lab.”

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