We’ve heard a lot about companies working on creating alternative meats and proteins – Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, and Memphis Meats immediately come to mind – but what about seafood?
Shiok Meats is working to create cell-based clean seafood. We’re talking crustacean meats, such as shrimp, crab, and lobster, harvested from cells rather than from animals. Co-founders Sandhya Sriram and Ka Yi Ling are stem cell scientists who made the leap from government positions at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) in Singapore to the uncertain world of startups.
The co-founders are still in the process of research and development, something that will probably take another two or three years. Ultimately they are working to produce a cell-based meat, such as a filling for a dumpling, that can be sold to a mass market. “Definitely we can’t make seafood look like seafood that you catch from the ocean,” Sandhya Sriram, co-founder of Shiok Meats, told Business Times. “We can’t make the fish as a whole. Even Mosa Meats and Memphis Meats, some of the first biotech firms to focus on beef and red meat grown from animal cells instead of reared on a farm, are working on hamburgers and meatballs (minced meat).”
Shiok Meats is has already sourced pre-seed financing from investors like AIIM Partners, Boom Capital, and Ryan Bethencourt, according to TechCrunch. And the company is set to tap into the massive global market for seafood, particularly in Asia and Southeast Asia where it’s a major part of an everyday diet.
In the beginning, its focus will be on shrimp, as it’s slightly less complicated and more cost-effective than other crustaceans. What’s more, the shrimp industry today is pretty nasty, and a cruelty-free cell-based alternative would be a welcome slap in the face. According to a recent report by the Associated Press, the seafood industry is largely connected to modern day slavery. What this means is that the calamari at your dinner table or sushi in your takeout box may very well trace back to forced labor in Indonesia.
With this ugly truth in mind, an alternative can’t come soon enough. Based on some early tests, the company is estimating that it can produce shrimp meat for something like $5,000 a kilogram. And yes, that seems like a lot, but today’s beef replacements are still much more expensive.
So when will it come to grocery stores near you? Shiok Meats plans to have its shrimp meats in Asia-Pacific markets in three to five years, starting in its home-base of Singapore and eventually expanding to Hong Kong, India, and Australia.