Bluu Biosciences: “Farmed fish is the alternative to overfishing our oceans” – vegconomist

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 90% of the world’s fish population is fully fished, overfished or in crisis. Yet fish is an important staple in the global food supply.

At the New Food Conference, taking place October 10-11 in Cologne, Dr. Sebastian Rakers, CEO and co-founder of Bluu Biosciences, will discuss how cultured seafood can bridge this gap. Here he gives a brief overview of regulatory status, consumer acceptance and the role of farmers.

Bluu Biosciences is the leading European company specializing in the development and marketing of farmed fish. Why did you choose seafood?
Fish is already the most consumed source of protein in many parts of the world and demand is increasing due to global population growth, while supply is limited due to overfishing. Stocks are decreasing or are being exploited to the maximum. Aquaculture is trying to catch up, but it has its own limitations and challenges. Therefore, farmed fish offer a viable alternative to overfishing our oceans.

Cultured seafood has its advantages over cultured meat because it is more tolerant of temperature changes, which is beneficial for larger scale production. Seafood also has a less complex structure, which will make it easier to develop structured products downstream. Bluu Biosciences draws on over a decade of experience working with fish cells, and our team is driven by a genuine passion for marine biodiversity.

Management team ©Bluu Biosciences

What products do you have in the pipeline?
We focus on Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout and carp products. So we cover three of the most popular edible fish species in the world. These species are well suited for production in culture: their genome has already been fully sequenced and research on cell lines is well advanced.

The first products that will be market-ready will be unstructured – think fish balls, fish tartare or even fish sticks. Later, we are considering structured products such as salmon fillets. Further research is needed for this 3D production to be able to combine cellular material from different tissue types.

Do you expect consumers to accept your products? What are you doing to encourage future consumer acceptance?
For the most part, we register a great openness on the subject – mainly motivated by the growing environmental awareness of consumers. Potential demand is growing. The farmed fish sector will also benefit from the growing acceptance of farmed meat in general. Overall, much more communication and transparency is needed to reduce consumer bias against cellular technologies. Other markets, such as Asia, are leading the way. At Bluu Biosciences, we gradually add complexity to our communication and are honest in the face of challenges.

While the disruptive potential of the traditional fish industry is enormous, we believe feeding a growing world population will take it all: cell-based, plant-based, and sustainably produced animal protein.

New Food Conference
© ProVeg

How much healthier do you expect your products to be than their conventional counterparts?
Ultimately, the product will not differ from wild fish in taste or cooking behavior. However, we optimize our cell lines for omega-3 fat content so the products are even healthier and more nutritious than conventional seafood. Thanks to the highly controlled environment, we can guarantee that our fish products are free from microplastics and heavy metals.

Critics of cellular farming fear it will lead to the destruction of traditional agriculture. How would you respond to this concern? Traditional fish farmers and fish farmers tend to be wary. They often don’t realize that their business is threatened far less by cultivated alternatives than by overfishing, pollution, climate change, and lack of sustainability efforts in their industries. But we are also seeing a growing openness to new business models, particularly among young farmers, and I am sure that as long as we maintain open communication about the opportunities and risks of farmed fish production, we will see more of farmers think of it as an alternative.

In November 2020, Singapore was the first country to approve the commercial sale of cultured meat, a major milestone in the field. How do you assess the regulatory landscape in Europe?
Regulatory approval is of course a very important step for every space company. We expect to have our first prototypes ready by 2022. We will work 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 feed the world more sustainably in the years to come.

Bluu Biosciences
©Bluu Biosciences

With regard to European regulations, it is difficult at this stage to estimate when exactly the first approvals will be granted. We work closely with the authorities to get detailed guidelines on the way to market. We all want to have the safest products, which means the regulatory process takes time and attention.

Thanks for the interview, Dr. Rakers.

To learn more about the vast potential of farmed fish, don’t miss Sebastian Raker’s presentation at the New Food Conference on October 10-11. Get your ticket now!

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