Germany-based food technology startup Kuleana recently developed Akami, a plant-based alternative to blue fin tuna. Kuleana is working on next-level fish alternatives in order to solve many problems in the traditional seafood industry, including overfishing, plastic pollution, fish fraud, human slavery, and human health concerns. “Consumers have growing health concerns associated with consuming apex predators such as tuna because of their concentrations of mercury, micro plastics, and dioxins,” Kuleana CEO Jacek Prus told Foodnavigator. “When it comes to consuming raw fish, bacteria and parasites are also on people’s minds.” To Prus’ point about parasites, a recent study carried out by researchers at the University of Washington found that many species of fish now carry 283 times more parasitic worms than in the 1980s.
While Prus is not disclosing many details of the company’s proprietary process until appropriate patents are in place, he revealed that Akami—the nutritional profile of which closely resembles its animal counterpart—is made with a combination of algae, sea water, koji, and vegetable proteins that undergo “traditional processing technologies in unconventional ways.”
Kuleana’s plant-based fish will be priced competitively to animal-based tuna and sold frozen in the foodservice sector to further minimize food waste by extending its shelf life. The company is currently speaking with distributors in Europe, Asia, the United States, and Brazil in hopes of getting its plant-based fish to sushi and poke restaurants. “Because we’ve focused on developing such a high-fidelity product, we’re convinced that it will help to get tuna off the table,” Prus said. “We’ve found that in order to truly replace a product, the substitute has to be at least as good in the fundamentals of taste, cost, and convenience.”