Cultured meat start-up targets ‘late 2021’ product launch

BlueNalu CEO Lou Cooperhouse expects to see a boom in cellular agriculture investment as soon as FDA regulation is established, which he expects to be put in place in 2021.

Cultured meat start-up BlueNalu is targeting a market entry timeframe of “late 2021” for its seafood products, which are manufactured in a lab from a starting point of fish cells, according to its president and CEO Lou Cooperhouse.

The San Diego-headquartered firm closed a $20 million Series A at the end of February, capital from which will be used to put in place “a small-scale pilot facility that will allow us to sell product sometime late next year”, Cooperhouse said.

BlueNalu manufactures cultured meat by combining fish cells with a series of inputs, some of which are proprietary and not publicly disclosed, but the majority of which are made up of the same inputs used in aquaculture fish feed such as salts, sugars, vitamins and amino acids.

The firm isolates the muscle cells that would normally be used by natural organisms to repair damaged tissue to “propagate those cells in very large volumes” to create its seafood products. Cooperhouse said there is no genetic modification involved in its process.

The start-up is currently developing its yellow tail fish product, which will be available upon its launch, alongside mahi-mahi, red snapper and it is also developing a tuna product.

BlueNalu is working with the US Department for Agriculture and the US Food and Drug Administration, added Cooperhouse, as the pair seek to establish a regulatory framework for cellular agriculture.

Globally, no cultured meat start-up has reached their market launch stage, while there is yet to be a national food regulator to approve the alternative meat subgroup for widespread consumption.

Once this regulatory hurdle is cleared in the US, which Cooperhouse said he expects to happen at some point in 2021, the CEO expects to see significant sums of capital attracted to the space.

“I’ll put myself out there – I can guarantee you there will be extraordinary amounts of investment the minute after the FDA provides regulatory clearance,” he said.

“That will really perpetuate the idea that this is in commerce and you can now start to fund factories the same way that plant-based has. In two years’ time, you’ll certainly see an escalation of funding – it’ll get into the billions starting in 2023-24.”

BlueNalu’s $20 million round was co-led by Stray Dog Capital, CPT Capital, New Crop Capital and Clear Current Capital, each of which participated in the start-up’s $4.5 million seed round in 2018.

The Series A attracted several strategic investors such as aquafeed animal nutrition supplier Nutreco, as well as global food industry product development partner Griffith Foods.