This week, San Diego-based cellular aquaculture startup BlueNalu secured $60 million in debt financing from international investors, marking the largest financing to date in the global cell-based seafood industry. The new financing builds on a $20 million Series A round that BlueNalu raised in 2020 after securing $4.5 million in seed funding in 2018.
Founded in 2018, the company creates slaughter-free fish—using a few fish cells and growing them in a controlled setting—with the mission of creating seafood that is healthier, devoid of microplastics and other contaminants, and more eco-friendly. “The team at BlueNalu is driven to produce cell-based seafood products that are healthy for consumers, humane for animals, sustainable for our planet, and provide increased food security to each nation in which we go to market,” BlueNalu President and CEO Lou Cooperhouse said. “This recent round of funding will allow us to continue advancing our mission and the next phase of our commercialization plans, while we continue to develop strategic partnerships that we expect will provide us with global market reach during the coming years.”
Bringing slaughter-free fish to market
In August 2019, BlueNalu outlined its plans for a lab-grown seafood production facility, which, at scale, would produce 18 million pounds of seafood without the need to slaughter marine animals and has since signed a lease on a 38,000-square-foot facility, a six-fold increase over the current BlueNalu space, to make its vision a reality. With the new financing, BlueNalu plans to begin operations at the new facility in San Diego, complete Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory approval of its initial products, and begin testing its cell-based fish at foodservice establishments in the United States, starting with mahi mahi later this year followed by premium bluefin tuna.
“We have increased our stake in BlueNalu by investing for the second time. Our commitment to inject further capital is based on the company’s impressive forward roadmap, detailing a clear path to ramping up production and bringing its first product to market,” Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, vegan activist, founder and CEO of KBW Ventures, and a two-time investor in the company, said. “KBW Ventures is pleased to play a role in the largest financing ever for a cell-based seafood company, aligning ourselves with mission-driven businesses that seek to solve the world’s food security issues sustainably.”
BlueNalu is also establishing joint venture partners around the world to expand into international markets, develop new species, and create global market strategies, with the ultimate mission of disrupting the unsustainable $200 billion global seafood industry with its eco- and animal-friendly alternatives.