BlueNalu named semifinalist in USD 15 million alternative protein competition

Published on
July 30, 2021
A chef prepares BlueNalu's cell-based yellowtail .

San Diego, California, U.S.A.-based BlueNalu, a company developing cell-cultured seafood products, has been selected to compete in the semifinal round of the XPRIZE Feed the Next Billion competition, focused on alternative protein cultivation.

Feed the Next Billion is a four-year, USD 15 million (EUR 12.62 million) global competition tasking companies to produce chicken breast or fish fillet alternatives that replicate or outperform conventional chicken and fish in access, environmental sustainability, animal welfare, nutrition and health, as well as taste and texture.

“Over the past several years, as our global population continues to grow and the demand for meat products increases, it has become clear that our current global food chain cannot keep up,” Caroline Kolta, program lead for the competition, said. “We know we need more nutritious, environmentally-friendly and sustainable alternatives to conventional animal-based products, and that wide scale adoption will require additional innovation continuously being brought to market.”

BlueNalu was named as one of 28 semifinalist teams out of about 270 global applicants after thorough evaluation.

"We're thrilled that the XPRIZE Feed the Next Billion competition was created as it not only recognizes that our food supply chain needs innovative change but also it continues to validate that this new way to produce seafood is close to reality," BlueNalu President and CEO Lou Cooperhouse told EcoWatch.

BlueNalu plans to launch its cell-cultured mahi mahi, bluefin tuna, and other species through small-scale market testing that will be produced at its nearly 40,000 square-feet pilot-scale food production facility in San Diego. The company is also aiming to break ground on its first large-scale regional production facility in the next few years. 

Recently, the company committed to pursuing third-party certification recognized by the international Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), such as Safe Quality Food or similar programs to demonstrate the high standards for its cell-cultured seafood product beyond domestic government regulations.

BlueNalu's entry into the global competition will be a cell-cultured bluefin tuna fillet – the product it’s been working on for commercial release.

Over the next year, semifinalists will work closely with the competition’s ecosystem and sponsors to develop the first version of their respective products, which will be judged in the fall of 2022. The winning teams will need to create at least 25 cuts of structured chicken breast or fish fillet analogs of 115 grams (four ounces) that replicate the sensory properties, versatility, and nutritional profile of conventional chicken or fish. A bonus prize will be awarded to the team that develops a whole animal-origin-free growth media at the lowest production cost.

Finalist teams will enter one last round of solution development before final judging. The judges will award a grand prize of USD 7 million (EUR 5.89 million), as well as second- and third-place prizes of USD 2 million (EUR 1.68 million) and USD 1 million (EUR 841,390), respectively.

"Demand for seafood is at an all-time high and anticipated to increase significantly in the years ahead, yet our global supply chain is increasingly vulnerable, and there is already a very challenging and fundamental gap in our ability to feed the planet with high-quality protein that will continue to widen during the coming decades," Cooperhouse said.

The full list of semifinalists can be found on the XPRIZE website.

Photo courtesy of BlueNalu

Reporting from Portland, Oregon

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