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San Diego Company Merges Food Science And Aquaculture To Make Fillets From Fish Cells

 January 26, 2021 at 12:05 PM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 Americans eat an average of 16 pounds of fish and shellfish a year. That number may be higher in San Diego where the fish taco can be found on restaurant menus from the iconic Roberto's taco shops to George's at the Cove and the Hoya. Now a San Diego aquaculture technology startup is betting that American's love for seafood will extend to fish filets grown from fish selves. San Diego based blue knowledge says it raised $60 million. It needs to build a pilot factory that will enable the company to bring eight species of cell-based seafood to restaurants. Joining me to talk about this blending of aquaculture with food science is a Lou Cooper house president and CEO of blue Nalu. Lou. Welcome. Speaker 2: 00:44 Awesome. Well, thank you for having me on your show today. It's a real pleasure. Speaker 1: 00:48 I often hear about technology companies disrupting existing industries to improve upon them. So did the idea for developing fish grown from fish cells come from a need to disrupt the seafood? Speaker 2: 01:01 Not at all. Jadah really came from the fact that the world needs to come up with a new solution to feed the planet. Um, today we have a tremendous global supply chain gap. We just cannot keep up with what comes out of the ocean or what comes out of agriculture. As global demand for seafood is actually an all time high people just love seafood. They are moving away from red meat towards the health and nutrition attributes that seafood offers. And today we're shipping seafood, you know, as many as five, 10,000 miles from point of capture to point of consumption, what blue Nile was doing is creating a far more sustainable, uh, footprint for seafood that's. Instead of being supply restricted is actually demand driven, putting these production facilities close to population and really democratizing seafood, uh, for all that, uh, for all that are seeking that as part of their diet. So it's really a new solution, not just wild caught and farm raised, but now cell-based with all the positive benefits of seafood, but without the mercury microplastics or environmental contaminants that might be associated with seafood, we consume today. Speaker 1: 02:09 Hmm. And blue Nalu has been around for three years. Now, what kind of trial and error has there been in the process of developing a, an acceptable substitute to wild caught or farm raised seafood? Speaker 2: 02:21 Yeah, we, we, our focus has really been, um, developing a broad array of fin fish species. So really we see ourself as a supply chain provider, uh, over time initially focused on finfish that include a mahi mahi, yellow tail amberjack, bluefin, tuna, red snapper, and other species as well. We'll launch them one at a time, but we have in fact already developed a proof of concept back over a year ago, uh, that showed that our product, you know, at the, the, the very small level of, of production, uh, but nonetheless demonstrated the exact same functional characteristics that's conventional seafood. And what that really means is when you prepare a seafood, you prepare maybe one of three ways you prepare it raw, uh, and you consume it that way, or you prepare it cooked grilled sear, sauteed pan fried, deep fried steamed, et cetera. Or you prepare it in some sort of an acidified solution like you're making Pokay or kimchi or [inaudible]. And what we showed was our product had the same exact characteristics. Uh, what, when it's prepared tastes the same smells, the same caramelizes, the same, it is fish just made differently. Um, but it really has all the exact same characteristics as a seafood that we consume every day. Speaker 1: 03:39 And what about the nutritional value? How does it compare to ocean caught fish and seafood? Speaker 2: 03:44 So we are literally making seafood, uh, at the cellular level, um, with, uh, all of the same characteristics as conventional products, including every nutritional element. Speaker 1: 03:56 All right. And you got to tell me about the science. How does the science work? How does the fish go from the cell to the filet? Speaker 2: 04:04 The science behind this was really developed as proof of concept, you know, over the past 10 years. And what's entailed whether it's a, a land animal or sea animal is look is literally about isolating the cells from a fish that are the same makeup as what you might consume in a filet. So what we're literally doing is growing those cell types, specifically, we're growing muscle cells, fat cells, and connective tissue cells. These are the three, three cell types that are really intrinsic in the seafood that we are consuming. So we're growing them independently in large stainless steel containers. That look a bit like a microbrewery, these large stainless steel tanks instead of wine or beer. What you might have instead is muscle cells, fat cells, and connective tissue cells, each grown independently. And they're literally being bathed the nutrients. So some of the same nutrients you might find in agriculture feed, uh, you know, amino acids, salt sugars, vitamins, et cetera, are, are being fed to these fish shells. And they're growing and growing and really large numbers. Then we are forming these different cell types into a finished product, uh, that is in fact, the same characteristics and flavor profile and texture, as you might find in a conventional product, Speaker 1: 05:25 No Lou was featured last week on the CNBC show streets of dreams. And the host of that show expressed some reservations about eating cell-based fish. Is that a reluctance that you're experiencing? Speaker 2: 05:37 Not at all. Actually we have found a enormous interest in our product. Uh, literally at the a hundred percent level, I must tell you at the food service level, um, they are very excited and motivated to put our product on the menu, um, and like many products in the food industry. We want to begin at restaurants because that's, we could really experiment and really see what, you know, how the product really resonates with consumers. Speaker 1: 06:03 Then you mentioned launching over the next year, when will people be able to taste blue now lose fish. Speaker 2: 06:09 As soon as we get through, you know, we're, we're literally putting in place a manufacturing facility and all the equipment. It's the first of its kind in the world to actually manufacture cell Bay seafood. So it's an extraordinary technology, uh, development, um, that is in process. And the second parallel activity is providing all the documentation that FDA requires for, uh, you know, that product being accepted into commerce. So we have, uh, the challenge of a facility never been done before and a regulatory agency. That's never actually validated this process before both those things that are in process. So to answer your question, um, we're projecting is somewhere around 12 months, maybe 15 months at the most, but maybe 10 or nine or 10 months on the, on the front end, where we actually might be able to have product in our first restaurant. Speaker 1: 06:59 I've been speaking with Lou Cooper, house, president and CEO of blue. Now, Lou, Hey Lou, thank you very much. Thank you very much for having me.

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BlueNalu, San Diego aquaculture technology start-up, is betting that Americans' love of seafood will extend to fish fillets grown from fish cells. It raised $60 million to build a pilot factory that will bring eight species of cell based seafood to restaurants.
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