Aqua-Spark, an investment fund focused on sustainable aquaculture and related technologies and services, has invested in Shiok Meats, a Singapore-based company developing lab-cultured shrimp cells as a substitute for natural or farmed shrimp meat.
Aqua-Spark is the lead investor in Shiok Meat’s USD 12.6 million (EUR 10.8 million) Series A round, which the company will use to open and operate the first commercial pilot plant for cell-based crustacean production. Initially, Shiok Meats is focused on launching a minced shrimp product in 2022. Shiok eventually plans to launch shrimp flavoring paste and powder, fully-formed 3D shrimp, and cell-based lobster and crab products in the coming years.
“This puts Shiok on schedule to become the first company in the world to have a fully functioning commercial pilot plant for cell-based crustacean production,” Aqua-Spark said in a press release.
Shiok Meats touts its cell-based shrimp, which it grows from stem cells in a serum-free media, as a “clean, traceable alternative to the shrimp farming industry.” Shiok’s patent-pending technology can grow crustaceans – including lobster and crab – four times faster than conventional production, according to the company.
“The cell-based animal protein industry has been on our radar for some time as once it is at scale it will have an enormous influence on food production efficiency, food safety, and the environment,” Aqua-Spark Co-Founders Mike Velings and Amy Novogratz said in a joint statement. “As our first investment in cell-based seafood, Shiok Meats immediately stood out to us with their strong, female-led team and impressive milestones to-date. While we’ve invested in a number of technologies working to make shrimp farming more efficient, healthier, and less polluting, Shiok is the first company in our portfolio to focus on shrimp production. We are excited to help shape this novel and innovative industry, which we expect to have a huge impact on the future of seafood, while continuing to support sustainable aquaculture operations, inputs, and innovations across the value chain.”
Velings and Novogratz said the fact that the global shrimp market is valued at around USD 50 billion (EUR 42.6 billion) was an enticement for their investment, as was the fact that so-called “clean meat” production could result in significant reductions of the shrimp sector's greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, land use, and water consumption.
“While there are many farms and technologies improving shrimp farming, there is still work to be done,” they said. “Much of what is currently on the market is raised in crowded factories/farms and treated with antibiotics, chemicals, and hormones. Conventional production processes often contribute to overfishing, excessive bycatch, misrepresentation, and mislabeling as well as contamination with effluents, heavy metals, and microplastics. This form of production is unsustainable and the sector strain will only increase as the population grows. Shiok is addressing this need and disrupting crustacean production to ensure people can eat clean shrimp, crab and lobster from a safe source.”
Shiok Meats was founded by Sandhya Sriram, the company’s CEO and a stem cell scientist, and Ka Yi Ling, who is the firm’s chief scientific officer.
“We are extremely excited to work in partnership with Aqua-Spark as we 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,” Sriram said. “Aqua-Spark was the perfect partner to lead our Series A because they care deeply about funding companies that address planetary health and food security. With their help, we hope to become the global leader in cell-based crustaceans and seafood.”
Shiok Meats’ other Series A round investors include SEEDS Capital (the investment arm of Enterprise Singapore), Real Tech Fund (Japan), Irongrey (a Global tech investing family office based in Korea), Yellowdog Empowers Fund (South Korea), Ilshin Holdings Pte. Ltd (Singapore), Toyo Seikan Group Holdings, Ltd (Japan), Veg Invest Trust (USA), Makana Ventures (Singapore), AiiM Partners LP (USA), Beyond Impact (Europe), Kelvin Chan Siang Lin (Singapore), and Alex Payne and Nicole Brodeur (USA).
The company received USD 4.6 million (EUR 4.1 million) in a previous round of funding from a consortium of investors last year.
Photo courtesy of Shiok Meats