Aqua Cultured and Ginkgo Bioworks Unveil Collab to Produce “Sushi-Grade” Fermented Alt Seafood at Large Scale

Chicago’s Aqua Cultured Foods and the Boston-based biotech Ginkgo Bioworks (NYSE: DNA) announce a collaboration to transform alternative seafood production with a cost-effective, large-scale process. 

Aqua Cultured is known for creating fish-free products, including tuna, whitefish, calamari, shrimp, and scallops, that closely resemble the texture, taste, and appearance of fresh-caught seafood. The company uses traditional and biomass fermentation and a consortium of microbes, including fungal strains, to transform unprocessed organic matter into realistic and “delicious” seafood whole-cuts alternatives.

“Today marks a significant step towards revolutionizing alternative seafood production”

Ginkgo Bioworks specializes in cell programming and provides end-to-end services for companies in diverse markets, from food to agriculture to pharmaceuticals. For example, it is working with the Israeli company Imagindairy on a protein expression project to produce animal-free whey more affordably.

“Today marks a significant step towards revolutionizing alternative seafood production. Our partnership aims to accelerate our technology, bringing our delicious products to market faster,” says Stefan Baier, CSO of AQUA Cultured Foods.

Chicago’s Aqua Cultured Foods and Ginkgo Bioworks (NYSE: DNA) are joining forces to transform alt seafood production with cost-effective processes.
Image courtesy of Aqua Cultured Foods

High-quality and consistent results

Ginkgo will use its “next-generation” microbial strain sequencing and advanced analytics to optimize and tune Aqua’s strains to make them deliver high-quality and consistent results in large-scale operations while enhancing production efficiency at scale.

Through the partnership, Aqua will enhance its R&D capabilities to expedite the launch of its innovative seafood alternatives for the market. The company secured $5.5 last year and is expanding production in its new facility to launch its products this year.

Beyond sequencing, we envision engineering our proprietary consortium for next-gen products, pushing alt-seafood boundaries with unique textures and building the nutrition beyond a good source of fiber. We look forward to how our sustainable approach can revolutionize the fishing industry and contribute to the regeneration of our oceans,” Baier adds.

Aqua Cultured's tuna
Image courtesy of Aqua Cultured Foods

A sustainable approach

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns that contaminated fish are a major source of PCBs (man-made organic chemicals) and mercury in the human diet. Eating farmed fish also poses risks due to antibiotics and pesticides, the EPA says.

Meanwhile, fishing and fish farming have negative environmental impacts, including depletion of wild fisheries and harm to endangered species. Furthermore, fish farm waste can pollute waterways and harm aquatic life.

Aqua Cultured says its seafood alternatives offer a healthier and more sustainable alternative to these production methods. The company’s products are free from contaminants, antibiotics, allergens, cholesterol, and saturated fats and are said to offer fiber, protein, micronutrients, and omega-3 fatty acids while providing sushi-grade quality.  Last year, they received positive consumer feedback during beta testing.

Mervyn de Souza, Senior Director of Business Development at Ginkgo Bioworks, comments: “AQUA’s groundbreaking fermentation technology is reshaping the future of alt-seafood, and we at Ginkgo are thrilled to contribute to this transformative journey. Together, we’re paving the way for a more sustainable and responsible approach to meeting the world’s growing food demands.”

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