Umami Meats files patent for single-stem cell technology capable of building muscle and fat for cultivated seafood
Umami Meats, a Singapore-based cultivated seafood startup, has filed a patent for its unique method of establishing mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) lines from fish. What this means is that Umami Meats can use a single fish stem cell to build muscle and fats in the production of its cultivated premium seafood and reduce the number of steps required in production.
“So far, we have established MSC lines from three species, including our flagship species, Japanese eel. This innovative approach to cell lines builds the foundation for faster and more efficient cell growth. Our technology advances are a critical driver of lowering costs, increasing scalability, and making cultivated seafood affordable for mainstream consumers,” said Mihir Pershad, Founder and CEO of Umami Meats.
By 2050, demand for seafood is expected to double but aquaculture and oceanic fisheries cannot match the growing demand, according to WorldFish, an international nonprofit research institute. Breakthrough innovations, like the patent Umami Meats recently filed, will play a key role in meeting rising seafood demand and ensure a sustainable food system.
Reducing supply and health risks
Cultivated seafood aims to alleviate supply issues and contamination risks by producing seafood from small samples of fish cells and growing them in a controlled environment. Advancements in cultivated seafood technologies could help address health risks like mercury and microplastic contamination in seafood or the growing risk of extinction for dozens of the most consumed seafood species.
As consumer demand for high-quality, sustainable food increases, so too has the market size. By 2030, cultivated meat and seafood has the potential of becoming a $25 billion market, according to a McKinsey report. Current technology limitations and production challenges limit existing cultivated production to premium price points 20 to 50 times higher than the price of traditionally sourced fish.
“What makes Umami Meats different in the cultivated food industry is our method for cultivating premium seafood with the vision of reducing overfishing of endangered and difficult-to-farm species,” Pershad said. “Our single-stem cell method will be a game changer in enabling us to reduce the price of cultivated premium seafood to match that of traditionally-sourced fish.”
Conserving endangered species
Established in February 2020, Umami Meats is a leading platform biotechnology company in the cultivated seafood sector. The company believes that a combination of technical innovation and strategic commercial partnerships will be fundamental to lowering the cost of cultivated seafood. The company is focused on cultivating species such as eel, snapper, tuna and grouper. Umami Meats recently established
an optimized process of isolating MSC cell lines from fish and enabling them to grow rapidly and efficiently. Unlike the standard approach that requires multiple production lines and cell types to cultivate muscles and fat, Umami Meats’ method only requires one cell line and one production line to cultivate a variety of tissues. Additionally, the Umami Meats team has established a plant and algae-derived growth media that is cheaper and easier to scale — the second key driver to bringing cultivated seafood products to price parity with traditionally-sourced fish.
“We know it will take multiple scientific and production process breakthroughs to make cultivated seafood affordable. But we are committed for the long term because we want premium cultivated seafood to be an everyday option for consumers,” Pershad said.
The Umami Meats team of 13 members are vigorously working to cultivate species like red snapper, eel and tuna, which are listed for conservation by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to high consumer demand, overfishing, and climate change.
Innovating for good
Pershad is a serial entrepreneur in the seafood and aquaculture space. He moved from the US to Singapore to launch Umami Meats for the country’s favorable regulatory outlook and supportive ecosystem for companies developing innovative, sustainable food solutions. Umami Meats is backed by leading investors such as HATCH Blue, Better Bite Ventures, Prithvi Ventures, Katapult, The Yield Lab, and Sustainable Food Ventures.
‘’The team is working diligently to shift the cost paradigm and will be increasingly leveraging advanced machine learning tools to accelerate the process of optimizing and scaling up production,’’ Pershad. “The promise of cultivated seafood is compelling; our priority is bringing the tremendous potential of our scientific breakthroughs to commercial viability. We want to realize that promise and bring it to sufficient scale to create real impact for the world.”