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Cell-Based Fish Company Gains $8.25M in Seed Funds

Bluu Bioscience founders

Sebastian Rakers, left, and Simon Fabich, co-founders of Bluu Biosciences (Bluu Biosciences)

26 Mar. 2021. The start-up enterprise Bluu Biosciences is underway creating seafood products from fish stem cells, and raising $US 8.25 million in seed funds. The one year-old biotechnology company in Berlin, which says it’s the first enterprise of its kind in Europe, is based on research by its scientific founder at the one of Germany’s Fraunhofer research institutes.

Bluu Biosciences aims to help solve an escalating need for sustainable sources for fish and seafood, a growing source of protein for the world’s population. The latest annual report on fisheries and aquaculture from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization shows in 2018 the world produced 179 million metric tons of fish and seafood, with 156 million metric tons ending up on customer plates.

FAO says much of the increase in production since 1990, however, is the result of aquaculture, also called aqua farming, with overfishing in oceans occurring more frequently and in more places. As a result, says the agency, the percentage of fish stocks within biologically sustainable levels has fallen from 90 percent in 1990 to 66 percent in 2018.

The Bluu Biosciences solution is to grow fish and seafood tissue in bioreactors. The company’s process begins with stem cells extracted from live fish tissue biopsies. The stem cells are cultured from their natural state into cell lines in a lab, with those cell lines then transferred to bioreactors, where a nutrient-rich bath helps expand the number of cells. In the bioreactors, cells are arrayed on scaffolds, where they form into biomass of fish or seafood tissue. The company says it enhances the basic tissue to produce recognizable consumer food products.

More sustainable process than fishing or aquaculture

The company points out that cell-based fish differs in key ways from cultured meat. Fish and seafood tissue is simpler in structure than meat, more tolerant to varying oxygen levels than mammalian tissue, and can be cultivated at room temperature, which lowers energy costs, compared to higher temperatures needed by cultured meat.

Bluu Biosciences says its process is more environmentally friendly than commercial fisheries or aquaculture. The company says no animals are caught or suffer in its process, less carbon dioxide is expended, less waste is generated, and no by-products and fewer pollutants are produced. In addition, supply chains are shorter, which means lower transport costs and fewer greenhouse gases to reach the customer.

The company’s process is based on research by co-founder Sebastian Rakers at the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Marine Biotechnology and Cell Engineering in Lübeck, Germany. “Bluu Biosciences,” says Rakers in an email to Science & Enterprise, “has set out to produce tasty and nutrient-optimized fish products from fish cells that are free of genetic engineering, antibiotics, and environmental toxins. Above all, that means intensive research and development work to develop the optimal fish cell lines for subsequent production.”

Bluu Biosciences is raising €7 million ($8.25 million) in its seed funding round, from investors Manta Ray Ventures and CPT Capital in the U.K., Lever VC in the U.S., Norrsken in Sweden, and Be8 in Germany. EVIG Group in Berlin, which supports sustainable food entrepreneurs, helped get the company off the ground. “The round was closed in a matter of weeks,” adds co-founder Simon Fabich, “which indicates how compelling the science team and the science foundation of Bluu is.”

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