BlueNalu and its sea-less, lab-grown petri-dish fish

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Last week, BlueNalu gave investors and global partners the world’s first piece of yellowtail amberjack cooked up in a lab. Note: This was not ‘fake’ plant-based fish. This was the real type where BlueNalu, founded in 2017 and located in San Diego, gives you boneless bloodless fish cultivated from a mix of Petri dish cultivation and 3D printing. The company calls its biotech method “cellular aquaculture“.

Close up of BlueNalu's whole-muscle, cell-based yellowtail, beer-battered and deep-fried for fish tacos.

Close up of BlueNalu’s whole-muscle, cell-based yellowtail, beer-battered and deep-fried for fish tacos.

Here’s how the non-marine fish is grown

A team under the direction of Dr Lauren Madden, Principal Scientist at BlueNalu, place muscle stem cells from a live fish in a Petri dish full of nutrients, which stews in a bioreactor, while the cells grow and multiply. The scientists condense and mix those cells with a nutritious liquid called “bio-ink,” which they then 3D-print into the desired shape, like haddock, salmon or trout.

Over the next five years, BlueNalu plans to expand this selection into the full range of fish, crustaceans and mollusk dishes.

Benefits of this cell-grown fish

As President and CEO of BlueNalu, Lou Cooperhouse, told participants at their Ocean Exchange conference  this December, BueNalu solves three problems:

  • Overfishing – Ocean fish numbers are on the brink of collapse, according to WWF. Rising temperatures, ocean acidification, viruses and pollutants further diminish fish supply in developing countries. Fish consumption benefits human health. BlueNalu not only delivers lab-grown fresh seafood but also delivers it to landlocked areas of the world.
  • Blood and bones – With the lab-grown BlueNalu fish, there’s no more choking on bones, nor do you have to clean it of blood and its lymph system or fillet it.
  • Pollutants – In the words of Cooperhouse: “The only difference from a BlueNalu fillet and a regular fish fillet is that we don’t have the mercury, the parasites, the microplastics, nor the bacteria these things are usually covered in.

On top of that you have a sustainable, ethical, trusted, social-responsible and slaughter-free enterprise.

BlueNalu: A first

While companies in Asia and Hong Kong have also experimented with sea-less fish, BlueNalu is the first startup that produces cell-based fish without animal serums (made of blood). This appeases consumers concerned about animal cruelty.

BlueNalu’s fish is also unique in that it acts just like traditional fish in all cooking techniques, whether it’s served seared or steamed or raw. Salmon produced by companies in Hong Kong, for instance, fall apart when heated above 212°F.

In 1931, Winston Churchill boldly predicted that “We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.

This is the BlueNalu process with fish.

Over the next 18 to 24 months, the company plans to produce 18 million pounds of seafood – all grown from its lab.

BlueNalu scientists at work in the lab

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About Author

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Leah Zitter is an award-winning High-Tech writer/ journalist with a PhD in Research and clients that include the Association For Advancing Automation (A3).

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