Sea & Believe, an IndieBio alt-seafood startup, has created what may be the first plant-based whole cod filet to flake like actual fish. Made from Irish seaweed and microalgae, the cod was recently featured during IndieBio’s Demo Day on April 26.
“An important program milestone for us”
Co-founded by Jennifer O’ Brien, Sea & Believe specializes in working with native Irish seaweed – a singular ingredient harvested from the pristine waters of northwest Ireland. According to O’Brien, seaweed grown there has a distinct taste, texture and smell unlike any other seaweed variety. O’Brien first discovered the exceptional powers of seaweed as a child, when consuming and bathing with the ingredient helped heal her chronic asthma.
Determined to turn the magic of Irish seaweed into a business, she went on to create Plantruption, which sells burgers and goujons (fish sticks) made from seaweed in stores throughout Ireland. Backed by commercial success, O’Brien then turned her talents to producing realistic plant-based seafood products. She and food scientist Piyali Chakraborty co-founded Sea & Believe, which soon joined IndieBio’s accelerated research program. O’Brien says the incubator played a major role in the startup’s first prototype.
“It taught us to move faster and not to wait for perfection,” O’Brien told IndieBio.”We are also in great company with the amazing alternative protein companies in the IndieBio network.” By the end of the program, Sea & Believe had achieved its milestone of producing a whole-cut cod filet with a proper flaky texture, which the startup cooked and sampled for investors.
Ireland’s first seaweed farm
O’Brien says the startup is seeking to raise $3M to scale the ingredient and build out its supply chain. It is currently constructing Ireland’s first seaweed farm and working with Irish agencies to train fishermen to harvest seaweed with 500-meter rope lines. The flaky cod, however, stands as one of O’Brien’s proudest accomplishments.
“No one has been able to achieve this yet and it was truly an important program milestone for us” she said. “Of course, hiring Piyali and other key team members has been another key enabler to setting a strong foundation for growth”