Aqua Cultured Foods Partners with Ginkgo Bioworks To Elevate Scallop and Tuna Alternatives

Today, Aqua Cultured Foods, specializing in alternative seafood production through microbial fermentation, has announced a partnership with Ginkgo Bioworks, a cell programming and biosecurity company.

This collaboration seeks to refine and enhance the production process of Aqua’s fish-free seafood products, which have been developed to mimic the texture, taste, and appearance of fresh-caught seafood.

“We are confident in optimizing and applying our technology to create the most delicious seafood products possible”

Based in Chicago, Aqua Cultured Foods has been developing seafood alternatives using a patent-pending fermentation technique and a blend of microbes, fibers, and plant-derived flavors to replicate the umami profile and buttery texture characteristic of oceanic seafood. Its inaugural products, tuna, and scallop alternatives, are said to retain their quality for up to six weeks.

The company first began public tastings of its beta alternative tuna, shrimp, and scallops this time last year at its headquarters in Chicago. The company then brought on Michelin star chef Laurent Manrique as a culinary advisor in the summer of 2023 to uplevel its product’s flavor, texture, and overall appeal.

Aqua Cultured Foods scallops
© Aqua Cultured Foods

Aqua has now initiated a collaboration with Boston-based Ginkgo Bioworks to leverage Ginkgo’s expertise in microbial characterization to further refine its fermentation technology. This partnership is anticipated to not only enhance the quality of the company’s existing product lineup but also accelerate the introduction of novel whole-cut and ground seafood alternatives to the market.

Advancing technology for next-gen products

Stefan Baier, Ph.D., Aqua’s chief science officer, states, “Our partnership aims to accelerate our technology, bringing our delicious products to market faster. With Ginkgo’s expertise in working with microbes, we are confident in optimizing and applying our technology to create the most delicious seafood products possible. 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.”

Ginkgo Bioworks has been supporting various businesses in the alternative protein sector with bioengineering, including partnerships with Vivici, QL AG, and Nosh Biofoods, as well as collaborations in bioengineered silk and natural food colors.

Aqua Cultured Foods tuna
© Aqua Cultured Foods

Reshaping alt seafood

While a launch date has not yet been set, Aqua plans to enter the market with its tuna and scallops, with future plans for a minced shrimp product suitable for various culinary applications, like dumpling fillings. Additionally, the company will participate in Ginkgo’s annual Ferment conference on April 11th, offering attendees an opportunity to sample its products.

Mervyn de Souza, senior director of business development at Ginkgo Bioworks, notes, “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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