From left: BLUU Seafood chief operating officer Dr Christian Dammann, chief executive and co-founder Dr Sebastian Rakers, and co-founder Simon Fabich.

Cell-grown seafood company BLUU raises €16m

German biotech start-up targets Singapore and US as work continues on pilot plant


German cell-grown fish meat start-up BLUU Seafood has raised €16 million in a Series A funding round to advance work on its technology and the market launch of its first products.

With the new money, the Berlin-based company will focus primarily on the regulatory approval of its first products, in addition to expanding its research work and initiating pilot production, it said in a press release. The main focus will be on hybrid products such as fish balls and fish fingers made from fish cells grown in fermenters.

BLUU Seafood plans its market entry in Singapore, where the sale of cultivated (cell-grown) chicken has already been approved by regulators in 2020, and where BLUU expects to win approval for its cultivated fish next year.

In the United States, cultivated meat and fish are also about to be launched into the market after recent US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approvals for cultivated protein start-ups GOOD Meat and UPSIDE Foods. With the final approval of the USDA granted a few days ago, the sale is now officially allowed. BLUU Seafood, too, has initiated the approval process with the FDA.

Europe will be the next to follow, said BLUU.

BLUU Seafood fish fingers, left, and fish balls, made with cultivated fish from trout cells.

BLUU Seafood is currently preparing to open its pilot production plant, with construction work expected to be completed by autumn this year. This will enable the company to move up from lab scale to production into larger fermenters of up to 500 litres.

BLUU uses Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout, and common carp cell lines, although says its technology allows it to select the best performing cell cultures from any fish species.  The company has produced fish fingers and fish balls, along with prototype sashimi salmon. Research and development is taking place for salmon and trout fillet production.

BLUU Seafood's cultivated sashimi salmon prototype.

The company explains on its website that producing cultivated fish meat has advantages over growing mammalian meat from cells. Fish cells can be cultivated at room temperature, whereas mammalian cells need 37°C, and fish cells are more tolerant to varying oxygen levels than mammals, an advantage for bioreactors with low oxygen levels.

The meat structure of fish is also significantly less complex than mammalian meat, consisting mostly of only muscle tissue, says BLUU.

€23m raised so far

The Series A funding was led by Sparkfood, a subsidiary of Portugal-headquartered multinational business group Sonae, and by LBBW VC. BLUU said Sparkfood, an investor and operator in innovative food companies across Europe, is an excellent fit with the existing outstanding international food and impact investors.

Further participants in the round were Asian investor SeaX Ventures and other venture capital funds such as Manta Ray Ventures, Norrsken VC, Delivery Hero Ventures, Innovationsstarter Fonds Hamburg GmbH, and pizza and home baking ingredients company Dr Oetker. In total, BLUU Seafood has raised more than €23m since its founding three years ago.

Enormous potential

The company’s co-founder and chief executive, Dr Sebastian Rakers, said the successful Series-A round demonstrated the enormous future potential that lies in cultivated fish as a platform technology for sustainable animal protein.

“It also underlines the strong scientific development that BLUU Seafood and our excellent team have delivered so far,” said Rakers. “Together with our strong, international investor base, we can start the next stage of development and bring our first products to market."

Anouk Veber, head of ventures at Sparkfood, said the future of human nutrition lies in healthier and sustainable alternatives to conventional food production.

“At Sparkfood, we focus on disruptive innovations in the food sector that preserve the environment while being scalable enough to make a relevant contribution to feeding the growing world population. BLUU Seafood has provided proof-of-concept for this. We are excited and proud to support the great team at BLUU Seafood in bringing this to market.”