Cell-based seafood producer Shiok Meats raises US$12.6m in Series A round

Image courtesy: Medium

SINGAPORE – Shiok Meats, Cell-based seafood producer, has raised US$12.6 million in a Series A round led by Aqua-Spark, a Netherlands-based VC firm focused on sustainable aquaculture.

The alt-protein startup is culturing ‘lab-grown’ prawn, crab, and lobster meat from isolated stem cells, with an initial focus on commercializing prawn products.

Shiok said that it will put the Series A funds towards construction of a first-of-its-kind commercial pilot plant, where it will culture cellular minced shrimp at scale with the aim of launching the product on the market within the next two years.

“The investors coming in this round, from all over the world, are all aligned towards one mission – sustainable, healthy, and delicious seafood for everyone,” said Shiok Meats co-founder and CEO Sandhya Sriram.

“Our mission is to develop cell-based seafood and meats that are contributing towards a cleaner and healthier seafood industry and solving for the inefficiencies around global protein production.”

Shiok Meats – co-founder and CEO, Sandhya Sriram

“Our mission is to develop cell-based seafood and meats that are contributing towards a cleaner and healthier seafood industry and solving for the inefficiencies around global protein production.”

Aqua-Spark is better known for backing companies involved in traditional aquaculture, from fish-farming operations to startups that provide tech solutions for the industry. Shiok Meats’ Series A represents the firm’s first deal in the ‘cultured seafood’ space, according to its co-founder Amy Novogratz.

“We’ve been looking into cell-based proteins focusing on seafood, assuming it will play a big role in the future of seafood,” Amy said.

“The cell-based seafood sector is really just getting started and we felt it was the right time for us to get involved in order to help influence how cell-based seafood develops, and usher it into the industr in such a way that it’s a part of the big picture rather than a separate subsector.”

Novogratz said Aqua-Spark chose Shiok over other cultured seafood startups because it’s “further along” than its counterparts and therefore should be quicker to market.

“We like that they are starting with shrimp, we like their network of investors and infrastructure of support, and we are especially excited about the strong founding team,” she added.

According to Shiok, the US$50 billion global market around prawn and shrimp production is highly unsustainable, with animals raised in crowded farms and treated using potentially hazardous antibiotics, chemicals, and hormones.

Other problems with ‘traditional’ prawn farming and fishing include overfishing, excessive bycatch, and contamination with effluents, heavy metals, and microplastics; while mislabeling and poor traceability are other significant issues further down the value chain.

Shiok Meats was Southeast Asia’s highest-funded startup in the ‘Innovative Food’ category last year, according to AgFunder research.

It raised US$4.6 million for its April 2019 seed round, which saw Y Combinator make its first-ever investment in a ‘clean meat’ company. Henry Soesanto, CEO of Philippines-based food manufacturer Monde Nissin — which is also the owner of consumer mycoprotein brand Quorn — also participated.

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Earlier this year, Shiok banked another US$3 million in bridge funding from investors including UK firms Agronomics and Impact Venture, US trust VegInvest, and UAE-based Mindshift Capital.

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