- Shiok Meats, a Singapore cell-based shrimp company, closed a $12.6 million funding round this week. The money will go toward construction of a pilot plant to make the shrimp, which the company said is expected to launch in 2022.
- The investment was led by Aqua-Spark, an investment fund focused on sustainable aquaculture. This is Aqua-Spark's first investment in the cell-based industry.
- While Shiok is the only cell-based meat company in Singapore, it is one of many working to complete a pilot plant to produce a larger amount of meat and to try to prepare for regulatory approval and an eventual commercial launch. Last week, Netherlands-based Mosa Meat closed a $55 million funding round to extend its pilot plant.
As 2020 looks to be a big year of funding for cell-based meat companies worldwide, it's not surprising that Shiok Meats received an investment of its own. This latest round more than doubles the total amount that Shiok has raised since its founding in 2018 to $20.8 million.
Shiok, which means "delicious" in Singapore and Malay slang, is starting with cell-based shrimp, but it also is working to produce cell-based versions of lobster and crab. According to the company, they isolate stem cells from the crustaceans and grow them into meat under nutrient-rich conditions. In four to six weeks, they have seafood that is the same as what comes from animals in oceans or farms. The company said this technology can grow crustaceans four times faster than conventional production.
In the press release, Shiok said it plans to first produce frozen cell-based shrimp meat for dumplings and other dishes. In the future, the company said it will make shrimp flavoring paste and powder, fully formed 3D shrimp, and cell-based lobster and crab products. The company has said its target markets are the Asia-Pacific region and the U.S.
Since Shiok first came on the scene with a public taste test of cell-based shrimp dumplings last April, the company has been working hard to improve both its technology and product. Weeks after the taste test, it raised $4.6 million in a seed funding round. In June, the company had a second funding round, which pulled in $3 million. Company officials told Yahoo they planned to use those funds to start their plant.
In January, CEO Sandhya Sriram told Reuters it cost $5,000 to make a kilogram of shrimp — meaning a single dumpling could cost $300. She told the news service the company's goal would be to cut that cost down to $50 per kilogram through new arrangements. In July, Vegconomist reported the details of those arrangements: Shiok had signed a deal to use new technology from Japanese cell-based meat company IntegriCulture.
It's unclear what impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on Shiok Meats' R&D and plant construction work, if any. What is known is that despite shutdowns across the globe, investors have been generous to cell-based meat startups.
According to a report from the Good Food Institute, the first quarter of 2020 brought cell-based meat companies a total of $189 million in funding — more than double the $77 million that was invested in them in all of 2019. It also was more than had been invested in the segment in its history. In addition to the funds Mosa Meat announced last week, Memphis Meats, BlueNalu and New Age Meats also have banked large funding rounds this year.
With a plant on the way and technology that could quickly make products that cost less, Shiok Meats seems like it could be on its way to getting products on the market in the next couple of years. It's one of many cell-based companies that is at this point in development. Memphis Meats and Blue Nalu are using their fundraising to get into plants and start producing products.
Blue Nalu President CEO Lou Cooperhouse said in February the company was on track to produce cell-based mahi mahi for a test market in 2021. Memphis Meats Vice President of Operations Steve Myrick said in January the company was hoping to produce products by 2022. Eat Just, which is working on cell-based meat in addition to plant-based eggs, has said it could sell cell-based chicken nuggets in a very limited capacity as soon as it receives regulatory approval. And Israel's Future Meat Technologies said last year it was on track to have a product for sale in its home country by 2021.
The final piece of the puzzle may be getting regulatory approval to sell these items because they represent a completely different way to produce meat. Company leaders across the cell-based sector have said they are working with government regulators in the United States, Europe, Asia, Israel and Russia. As the issue has proven to be contentious and scientific developments have continued, it would be interesting if a lack of approval is what ultimately slows development of this industry.