Umami deploys funding to advance cultivated seafood
CULT Food Science Corp portfolio company, Umami Meats, has been going from strength to strength recently, with significant progress in research and development, recognition and human resources.
It has become crucial that companies such as CULT and Umami strive to integrate sustainably sourced fish and seafood into the global food security conversation. Historically, the seafood industry has significantly impacted the environment with an estimate that 85% of marine fish stocks are either fully exploited or overfished. Also, many fisheries throughout the world throw away more fish than they keep, which is counterproductive to food security. To meet overall nutrition requirements and growing food demands, it is predicted that food production must increase by 70% by 2050. Therefore, cultivated seafood from Umami, as well as meat products, have the potential to provide protein without further exhausting the world's natural resources, based on having a higher feed conversion ratio and similar nutritional value to traditional meat.
Umami's recent achievements include but are not limited to expanding its research collaboration with Nanyang Polytechnic and being recognized in the form of two awards for sustainable seafood in Asia. Also, Umami has successfully established its cell lines for eel and snapper validating that these cell lines successfully differentiate into mature muscle and fat. With the goal of creating healthy, sustainable seafood without sacrificing animals or the oceans, Umami has secured funding to develop its plant-derived growth serum and low-cost production system for cultivated seafood.
Not only has Unami established strategic collaborations with universities and corporate partners for spent media analysis, 3D structuring for prototyping, and fish fat development, but it has also reduced its costs of production in the past several months. With an already impressive team, Umami has recently added two senior scientists – Dr Dhiraj Singh as its new Lead Scientist of Media Development and Dr Louise Funke as an addition to the Media Development team. These additions are expected to help Umami continue to achieve new milestones. The venture is planning to showcase its first product prototypes shortly, moving to a new dedicated office and lab space, and building a high-throughput, semi-automated platform for screening growth conditions to optimize cell line and media development. Also, Umami was recognized as the ‘Best Sustainable Seafood Company’ in Southeast Asia by Acquisition International and as ‘Best Sustainable Seafood Company’ in the 2022 Singapore Business Awards.
Umami's recent pre-seed funding round in which CULT participated was co-led by Better Bite Ventures, which is an Asia Pacific-focused alternative protein venture capital fund as well as Genedant, a VC fund investing in early-stage, deep-tech biomedical and agri-food start-ups in Asia. Further participants in the round included Impact Venture, Katapult Ocean, Plug & Play Ventures, Prithvi Ventures, The Yield Lab Asia Pacific, and Venture for America. Umami Meats is planning to utilize the funding to further advance its low-cost, scalable production system for cultivating fish by establishing robust and production-ready cell lines from multiple fish species, leveraging its growth serum to enable production at price parity, and maturing production processes ahead of product demonstrations and taste tests.
"We are delighted to have partnered with this group of like-minded investors who share our vision for sustainable seafood," said Mihir Pershad, Founder & CEO of Umami. "Seafood is a US$180 billion industry faced with growing global demand and supply that is increasingly volatile and under threat from climate change, overfishing, and ocean pollutants. Our investors' commitment to a safer, healthier, and more sustainable food system, combined with deep industry knowledge in agri-food and alternative proteins, will be a valuable resource in establishing cultivated seafood as a viable, sustainable solution to the growing demand for seafood while reducing pressures on ocean ecosystems."
"We are impressed by the significant progress that Umami has made in various areas in such a short period of time," added Lejjy Gafour, CEO of CULT. "Since CULT invested in Umami, our management team has admired how the venture has taken stride after stride in a positive and valuable direction. In the cellular agriculture sector, it is vital to secure funding, attract a strong team, prioritize research and development, understand commercialization, and be motivated to make the world a better place."
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