These fishless calamari fries mimic seafood with the power of fermentation


Chicago-based startup Aqua Cultured Foods has nailed the taste, texture and nutrition of calamari without any use of animal products. The startup has used the power of microbial fermentation to develop sushi-grade calamari from mycoproteins. Aqua Cultured Foods is focused on creating whole cuts of fish-free products, a differentiator from many other companies that have successfully created alternatives to ground seafood. The startup worked with its culinary advisor, Chef Johnny Carino, who helped develop the formula for its calamari so it could be breaded and fried like its animal counterpart.

“When you bite down, you get an immediate crunch that combines with the realistic, slightly chewy texture of calamari,” Carino said in a statement. “He looks and acts like squid. There hasn’t been a learning curve like you might expect with a completely new product or ingredient.

Aquatic Cultured Foods

Aqua Cultured Foods is using microbial fermentation to develop additional products to capitalize on the growing seafood alternative industry and plans to market animal-free shrimp, scallops, and tuna and whitefish fillets. The startup was able to bring its fishless calamari to market sooner than expected and aims to make it available to the public through its strategic partners later this year.

“We are moving to an accelerated timeline from the research and development stage to commercialization, and now we will focus on scaling, strategic alliances and go-to-market partners such as restaurant chains” , said Anne Palermo, CEO of Aqua Cultured Foods. said in a statement. “Reaching this milestone ahead of schedule is an achievement for the alternative seafood and alternative protein sectors, and for us as a company.

Seafood without fish is a sensation

The environmentally damaging industrial fishing industry is plagued with issues ranging from human rights abuses to animal cruelty and beyond, all repositioned in the spotlight by the 2020 documentary Marine suction. An alternative seafood industry is emerging to address these issues and gaining momentum. In the first half of 2021, the alternative seafood industry earned a record $116 million in investment capital, surpassing 2020’s total of $90 million.

In addition to Aqua Cultured Foods’ precision fermentation approach, other companies are working with different inputs and processes to develop fish-free alternatives that look like the real thing. In the plant-based seafood sector, the biggest player is Gathered Foods, maker of vegan seafood brand Good Catch Foods. The brand was founded by chef brothers Chad and Derek Sarno and offers a variety of plant-based seafood such as crab cakes, breaded fillets and tuna pouches, all made from a blend exclusive of legumes.

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Cellular aquaculture startups are also working to disrupt the industrial fishing industry with a different approach that relies on a small amount of fish cells that are grown in a real fish meat bioreactor. Players in this space include San Diego-based BlueNalu and San Francisco startup Wild Type.

Earlier this year, UPSIDE Foods, a cultured meat company that focuses on producing poultry meat, acquired Cultured Decadence, a Midwest-based startup that grows shellfish in the lab. Together, the two startups will tackle the marketing of meat from terrestrial and marine animals without slaughter. All of these developments are about to be presented to the public, pending regulatory approval for cultured meat in the United States.

For more on seafood without fish, read:
Trader Joe’s is working on vegan seafood
Vegan fish is coming to Long John Silver’s, America’s largest seafood chain
Good Catch is trolling the subway with Vegan Tuna Sandwich food trucks

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