BlueNalu just revealed details about its plan to become the global leader in cellular aquaculture. Yesterday the San Diego-based startup, which grows seafood from cell cultures, dove deeper into its commercialization strategy for its cultured fish and also released schematics of its future large-scale food facilities.
According to a press release from the company, the new facility, which will be “a hybrid between a microbrewery and a conventional food production facility,” will be 150,000 square feet and produce a whopping 18 million pounds of seafood products per year. There, BlueNalu scientists will grow fish cells in large tanks then combine them into a variety of finished seafood products.
And when we say variety, we mean variety. “We’re creating a platform approach that will allow us to do freshwater and saltwater fin fish, and ultimately crustaceans and mollusks too,” Lou Cooperhouse, co-founder and CEO of BlueNalu, told me over the phone. They’ll initially focus on species that are overfished, difficult to farm, or contain high levels of pollutants. Finished products will be sold to restaurants, grocery stores and directly to consumers.
Their first product will be cultured mahi-mahi. According to Cooperhouse, they decided to enter the market with this fish since it’s versatile and especially difficult to farm raise. However, they’ve previously done taste tests with yellowtail amberjack, and Cooperhouse emphasized that they’re focusing more on creating a cellular aquaculture platform — not just one particular species.
It will be a while before we can sample cell-based mahi-mahi. BlueNalu’s roadmap, made up of five phases, is still in phase one: focusing on R&D for its cell-based seafood. They hope to start selling their products in two to three years, then break ground on their first facility (phase five) in five years.
The Holy Grail for any cultured animal tissue company — be it focused on beef or fish — is to make an agnostic platform to grow any type of tissue. But for now, other cellular aquaculture companies are much more heads-down on one type of seafood: shrimp for Shiok Meats, salmon for Wild Type, and tuna for Finless Foods. BlueNalu’s plan for the future is unusually broad — and ambitious.
It’s easy for companies to talk a big talk about what will happen five years down the road. And honestly, BlueNalu’s plans might be a little too aggressive to bring into action in that timeline, especially since cell-based meat and seafood have yet to hit the market. Then again, the company raised a significant $4.5 million only two months after launching publicly. Plus, as seafood prices rise and our waterways become more contaminated, I’m betting the market opportunity for cellular aquaculture products will grow. We’ll see if BlueNalu will be there to feed it.