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Alt-seafood startups close in on $15 million prize

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
14 July 2021, at 2:26pm

Eight alt-seafood producers, including Wildtype and Blue Nalu, have made the semi-finals of a competition that aims to help feed the growing global population using alternative protein sources.

Called Feed the Next Billion, XPRIZE announced that the two cell-based aquaculture startups were among the 28 semi-finalist teams in the $15 million competition. Other seafood-related companies to make the cut are Another Fish, Umami Meats* and Cell Ag Tech which also produce cell-based fish. They are joined by SeaSpire, Revo Foods and Kuleana, which all produce plant-based alternative seafoods.

Launched in December 2020, the competition is aimed at reinventing how humanity will feed future generations by incentivising the production of structured chicken breast or fish fillet alternatives that replicate or outperform conventional chicken and fish in access, environmental sustainability, animal welfare, nutrition and health, as well as taste and texture.

Selected by the competition’s panel of judges, the 28 semi-finalist teams represent 14 countries and were chosen on the merits of their technical submissions.

Lab-grown bluefin tuna cuts, produced by Blue Nalu
Lab-grown bluefin tuna cuts, produced by Blue Nalu

© Blue Nalu

Over the next year, semifinalists will work closely with the competition’s ecosystem and sponsors, which include ASPIRE and The Tony Robbins Foundation, as they begin to develop the first iteration of their products. Up to 10 teams will then be chosen, based on the merit of their technical solution prototypes, towards the end of 2022 and will split a milestone award of $2.5 million. Finalist teams will enter one last round of solution development before final judging, which will award one grand prize team $7 million, second and third placed prizes of $2 and $1 million respectively, and a bonus prize of $2 million. The winning teams will need to create at least 25 cuts of structured chicken breast or fish fillet analogs of 115 grams that replicate the sensory properties, versatility, and nutritional profile of conventional chicken or fish.

“Over the past several years, as our global population continues to grow and the demand for meat products increases, it has become clear that our current global food chain cannot keep up,” said Caroline Kolta, XPRIZE Feed the Next Billion Program Lead. “We know we need more nutritious, environmentally-friendly and sustainable alternatives to conventional animal-based products, and that wide scale adoption will require additional innovation continuously being brought to market. I am thrilled about the international cohort of Semifinalists selected to embark on this journey of innovation and exploration to shape a future of food, starting with chicken and fish.”

The XPRIZE Feed the Next Billion judging panel consists of a diverse, international group of tech industry experts working at the highest levels of academia and research. The eight judges include:

  • Amy C Rowat, associate professor of integrative biology and physiology at the University of California, Los Angeles
  • Brian Jacobson, assistant director of pilot plant operations, University of Illinois, Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory (IBRL)
  • Dan Blaustein-Rejto, director of food and agriculture at The Breakthrough Institute
  • Dr Kantha Shelke, founder and principal at Corvus Blue LLC
  • Dr Keith Cox, co-founder and chief scientific officer of Seafood Analytics, assistant professor of marine fisheries at The University of Alaska Southeast (UAS)
  • Dr Laura Domigan, biomaterials scientist, University of Auckland, New Zealand
  • Dr Marcos Sanchez-Plata, associate professor, global food security - animal and food sciences at Texas Tech University
  • Olivia Ogilvie, postdoctoral fellowship in cellular agriculture with a specific focus on cultured meat - The University of Auckland

XPRIZE Feed the Next Billion originated from the Future of Food Impact Roadmap, an in-depth analysis by XPRIZE of global food system challenges, which found alternative proteins at-scale to be a critical impact area requiring significant technological advances, decreased price points, and notable shifts in consumers’ preferences. The competition was then launched with the support of partners including ASPIRE, a part of Abu Dhabi’s Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC), the technology programme management pillar of Abu Dhabi’s Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC) which shapes research and development for transformative technology outcomes and defines Abu Dhabi’s R&D strategy, The Tony Robbins Foundation, The Good Food Institute, Foundation for Food and Agriculture, District 3, New Harvest, and Proveg International. Through the development of chicken and fish alternatives, teams competing in the prize will work to ensure that, as the world grows in wealth, the availability of sustainable food can meet the coming demand for food products that allow the next billion to live active and healthy lives.

*Umami Meats is part of Hatch's investment portfolio, but The Fish Site retains editorial independence.