The ICAR-Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) has embarked on an initiative to develop lab-grown fish, a first in India to address growing seafood demand and reduce pressures on wild stocks.
Cultivated, or lab grown, fish is produced by isolating specific cells from the fish and growing them in a laboratory setting using animal component-free media. The final product hopes to replicate the original flavour, texture and nutritional qualities of a traditionally raised fish.
In the initial phase, the institute is focusing on developing cell-based high value marine fishes, such as king fish, pomfret and seer. In line with this, CMFRI has entered into a collaborative research agreement with Neat Meatt Biotech, a startup working towards developing cultivated meat, to launch this initiative in a public-private partnership mode. CMFRI director Dr A Gopalakrishnan, and co-founder and CEO of the Neat Meatt Biotech, Dr Sandeep Sharma, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) regarding the newly formed partnership.
According to the MoU, CMFRI will carry out research on early cell line development, which involves isolating and cultivating fish cells for further research and development. Additionally, CMFRI will handle genetic, biochemical, and analytical work related to the project. The institute is equipped with a cell culture laboratory with basic facilities, providing a solid foundation for research in cellular biology.
Neat Meatt is set to lead the optimisation of cell growth media, development of scaffolds or microcarriers for cell attachment, and scaling up production through bioreactors.
As Gopalakrishnan explained in a press release: “This project aims to accelerate development in this field, ensuring India is not left behind in this emerging industry.
“This public-private partnership marks a crucial step in bridging the gap between India and other nations like Singapore, Israel, and the USA, who are already advancing cultured seafood research. Lab-grown fish offers immense potential for environmental and food security benefits, and this collaboration leverages CMFRI's marine research expertise with Neat Meatt's technological know-how in this field, paving the way for a sustainable and secure future for seafood production in India.”