The next Beyond Meat success story could come from the fishing industry.

As concerns grow about the cleanliness and sustainability of farm-grown fish, startups are employing stem cells and plants to create substitutes they claim are healthy, sustainable alternatives in a growing seafood market.

Demand for farmed fish is soaring and is expected to grow. About half of the fish eaten today comes from farms, up from 10% about 30 years ago. And while fish is seen as a healthier, lower-fat source of protein, fish farming is said to be a looming environmental disaster, with threats of chemical contamination, disease and coastal ecosystem depletion. 

As threats rise, entrepreneurs globally are rushing in to create alternatives to farmed fish and hauling in investments from venture capital firms like New Crop Capital of Washington, D.C. and Blue Horizon of San Francisco. New Crop last year led a $4.5 million investment in sustainable seafood company, Blue Nalu. 

“There is no leader in this fish replacement market, none have scale as of yet,” I think it is essential to have these alternatives,” says Renato Meloni, Head of Research at Richmond Global Compass. “The bucket of sustainable food companies is huge and the market is still very open.” 

  • Seafood replacements are both plant-based and grown from stem cells and startups are found around the world. Singapore’s Shiok Meats is planning to make cell-based shrimp, crab, and lobsters
  • New York-based Ocean Hugger Foods was founded in 2015 and produces plant-based sushi; San Diego, California-based Blue Nalu, which wants to be the first to introduce cell-based seafood within ten years, and Emeryville, California-based Finless Foods, focusing on producing cell-based bluefin tuna.
  • “Fishing companies are looking at Impossible and Beyond Meat very carefully. I’m sure they would be looking to buy one of these smaller fish replacement companies as a result,” Meloni says. 
  • Karma Takeaway: Sustainable fish companies are watching the startling success of plant-based meat companies and see an opening as farmed fish’s image is tarnished by ecological threats.