Aqua Cultured Foods, a startup making seafood from microbial fermentation, announces it has held multiple private tastings with leading food industry partners, including national distributors, multinational organizations, chefs and other food service and retail providers.
The startup also reveals it is raising its next financing round, and actively seeking a Chicago-area site to begin construction of its first commercial plant.
“I was completely blown away, I couldn’t stop eating it.”
Using novel fermentation technology, Aqua is developing what it says are the world’s first whole-muscle cut seafood alternatives. Utilizing natural fermentation, the startup creates animal-free filets of tuna and whitefish as well as calamari, shrimp and scallops without any animal inputs or genetic altering. The startup also states its products offer a complete source of protein without the need for starches or protein isolates.
In the private tastings, Aqua showcased samples of its sushi-grade seafood alternatives to top food companies, including multinational food service giant Sodexo.
“The plant-based whole muscle cut, sushi-grade alternative seafood samples I tried today were absolutely incredible. INCREDIBLE!!,” said Jen DiFrancesco, Director of Culinary Innovation at Sodexo. “Wonderful time today with these fine, talented folks at Aqua Cultured Foods. Made from fungi and I was completely blown away, I couldn’t stop eating it. We’re still talking about it!”
To gauge consumer acceptance, Aqua is planning public tasting events via restaurant partnerships and in-store product introductions in 2023.
In addition to its next funding round, the company says its top priority is securing a Chicago site to begin scaling production volume. Once fully operational, it expects to initially deliver 50,000 lbs of product per month. In March 2022, Aqua revealed it had significantly improved its production timeline by doubling its biomass output.
“The feedback and discussions with companies we’re meeting have made us extremely optimistic about go-to-market and co-branding opportunities,” said Aqua CGO Brittany Chibe.
She continued, “Whether it’s rising costs, supply chain concerns, or sustainability goals, we are seeing major interest from potential partners that want to develop products with our seafood or offer it on menus.”