Alt-seafood: cell-based seafood products in the European Union

Although many large cell-cultured seafood companies are based in Asia, Dr. Sebastian Rakers, co-founder of Bluu Biosciences, believes that European consumers will embrace cell-cultured seafood due to their increased benefits in terms of durability and production efficiency.

How does cell culture work?

Dr. Sebastian Rakers co-founded Bluu Biosciences, Europe’s first cell-based seafood company

Cell-based fish consists of the same ingredients as conventionally produced fish, but instead of slaughtering a whole fish, real fish meat is produced from fish cell lines. The basis of each cell line is a biopsy of a living fish, but the target fish does not have to die.

Bluu Biosciences has established several cell lines from adult tissue biopsies, from which we have chosen the best characterized and fastest growing ones for our mission to create cell-based fish products. The cell mass grows in the bioreactor, which will then be harvested and further processed for the development of the final product.

Bluu Biosciences uses proprietary technologies and non-GMO immortalized cell lines for production. We have taken a very disciplined approach over the past few years and applied a variety of techniques that have allowed us to identify immortalized cells of natural origin. Cells from these lineages can replicate multiple times without the need for a new biopsy, which is important for increasing production.

Why did Bluu Biosciences decide to look for seafood rather than another protein of animal origin?

In many parts of the world, fish is the most consumed source of protein. But while demand increases as the world’s population grows, stocks are shrinking due to overfishing or being exploited to the limit. Aquaculture is trying to catch up, but has its own limitations and challenges. Therefore, cell-based fish are a viable alternative.

In addition, cell-based fish has its advantages over cell-based meat: it is more tolerant of temperature changes, which is beneficial for large-scale production, and it has a less complex tissue structure. , which facilitates the development of structured products later. Bluu Biosciences can draw on over a decade of experience working with fish cells and is driven by a genuine passion for fish biodiversity.

Close-up image of micropipettes
In some cases, fish cells are better suited to cell culture techniques than beef or chicken

What species do you focus on?

We focus on Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout and carp. So we cover three of the most popular edible fish species in the world. We will start with products in the form of fish tartare, fish sticks and fish balls. More complex products such as fish fillets will follow soon after.

These species are well characterized, among other things, by the fact that their genome has already been completely sequenced and that research on these cell lines is well advanced. Theoretically however, with the necessary investment of time and resources, many more species are conceivable.

In the future, our cell-based products will not differ in taste or cooking behavior from wild fish. However, we optimize our cell lines for omega 3 fat content and other superior nutrients so that a future product is healthy and nutritious.

How have traditional consumers and fish farmers reacted to cell-based seafood?

We register a great openness on the subject, driven by the growing environmental awareness of consumers and their desire for sustainability. The demand is there. Cell-based fish will also benefit from the growing acceptance of cell-based meat. Some markets, such as Asia, are already far ahead of Europe in this respect.

Traditional fish farmers tend to be wary. They often mistakenly understand that their business is threatened far less by cellular alternatives than by overfishing, pollution, climate change, and the lack of sustainability efforts within their industry. From our perspective, feeding a growing world population is going to take all of these: cell-based, plant-based, and sustainably produced animal protein.

group photo
The Bluu Biosciences team

How do you see the cellular space evolving in the years to come?

We believe cell-based fish has the potential to become one of the most sustainable alternative protein sources. Research and development are well underway. One of the benefits of cell-based fish is that we only produce the cells we need. This means that there is no food waste in production. With regard to cellular waste, we are also working on suitable recycling technologies.

The production framework also plays a role: use of renewable energies, production close to the consumer to reduce transport distances, etc. Protecting the environment and preserving resources go hand in hand with protecting wild species.

The cell space has seen phenomenal growth over the past three years, including the first regulatory approval of a Singapore-grown chicken product. This was a good sign for regulatory processes in other countries.

Currently, more than 80 startups are working on the development of cultured meat and seafood inputs, services or end products and more and more are entering the space, including multinational life science companies that have decided to create at least one branch to supply cultured meat startups. Additionally, investors are beginning to understand and appreciate the revolutionary potential of this technology and the breadth of market opportunities. As a result, investment activity in this space is accelerating rapidly – ​​from millions to billions [of dollars a year]. This is key to advancing science and moving upmarket.

We hope to have our first prototypes ready by 2022. We will be working through the regulatory approval process to have the first products on the market by 2023 to 2024 and we want to scale the technology fairly quickly so that we can help nurture the world in a more sustainable way. in the next two years.

When, if ever, do you envision your cell-based offerings reaching price parity with the wild or farmed equivalent?

The cost of producing cell-based meat has fallen by more than a factor of 10,000 over the past eight years. Going forward, manufacturing costs will be reduced to such an extent that we can achieve competitive pricing once significant production levels are achieved. Within a decade, prices will fall below those of conventional fish.

Cell-based meat and seafood products will be competitive in the future. It really is a question of time, optimization and scale. Bluu Biosciences is stepping up its efforts to produce sustainable, high-quality fish products from cell cultures that feature high nutritional value and a premium flavor profile. The goal of Bluu (and other cell pioneers) is not to serve a small elite, but to make a significant contribution to securing the future supply of animal protein at large.

Megan Howel

Associate Editor at The Fish Site

Megan Howell started writing about aquaculture in 2019 as part of the editorial team at 5m Publishing and The fish website. She holds an MA in Applied Research Methods from Trinity College Dublin. She currently lives and works in Ireland.

Alt-seafood: How plant-based shrimp and scallops wow

The plant-based seafood segment is moving far beyond soy and corn-based substitutions and can now offer seafood lovers the same taste and experience as the “real thing”, according to Monica Talbert, CEO of Plant-Base…

Seafood Alternatives: An Analyst’s Perspective

Unlike alternative meat, alternative seafood can struggle to reach more than a niche market, according to Rabobank seafood analyst Gorjan Nikolik, due to a range of issues.

Alt-seafood: the promise of mycoprotein fermentation

Paul Shapiro, CEO of The Better Meat Co, believes mycoprotein fermentation will give the plant-based seafood sector a wealth of ingredients for their edible offerings, while making the global food system more su…

Alt-seafood: a fish welfare perspective

Alternative seafood is a promising avenue for addressing animal welfare concerns in traditional seafood, and the rise of new producers should bring a welcome boost to the seafood space.

Alt-seafood: an entrepreneur’s point of view

The buzz around cell-cultured seafood has been growing steadily, and as Lou Cooperhouse, CEO and co-founder of cell-based seafood company BlueNalu, explains, it’s just one question of time before these companies reach the commercial…

Previous Climate crisis threatens access to fish nutrients, study finds | Fish
Next The start-up Alt-seafood appoints a new CSO