Shiok Meats, a Singapore startup that creates lab-grown shrimps using stem cells, has received a new round of funding to help its research and development as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to put pressure on the global food supply chains.
The new round of Series A funding, which is worth $12.6 million, will help sustain Shiok Meats with its development of lab-grown seafood for three years, Chief Executive Officer and co-Founder Sandhya Sriram said, according to Bloomberg. The company gained attention for growing minced crab, lobster and shrimp meat in a lab using cells extracted from the actual creature.
As concern for the environment, health and animal welfare rise so does the demand for meat substitutes. Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are two companies dominating the plant-based alternatives market. Shiok Meats is meeting interest in alternatives to meat that are grown in the lab.
Singapore is a country that is most vulnerable to food shortages, especially since it imports 90% of its food due to scarcity of land, reported CNBC. The country is heavily affected by extreme weather patterns and new hygiene restrictions for produce, which slows down the shipment of vegetables and other perishable goods to stores.
So far, Shiok Meats has raised a total of $20.2 million in funding while its post-money valuation is worth about $50 million, a person familiar with the fundraising said.
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The cells extracted from the crustacean are then placed in a solution filled with nutrients at a temperature of 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit). This process helps the stem cells multiply and become meat in four to six weeks, Reuters reported.
Selling lab-grown shrimp can be expensive. It is reported that 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of shrimp can cost $5,000 while a single order of “siu mai” (shrimp and pork dumplings) using the lab-grown shrimp can carry a price tag of $300.
Sriram plans to cut the cost of lab-grown shrimp to $50 per kilogram in 2022, but there are still challenges along the way. Shiok Meats would still need to finalize the recipe before they can lock down the exact suppliers of the ingredients needed. It would also take a year before they can acquire bioreactors used to grow the shrimp meat.
“We can see so many new players coming up,” Sriram said. “The next five years will about be who survives, who makes the cut and who is able to support companies like ours make that step over to large-scale manufacturing.”
Another hurdle Shiok Meats would have to overcome is approval from Singapore’s food regulator.
“We are looking at next year, so we might be the first ever company to launch a cell-based meat product in the world,” Sriram said.
More studies need to be conducted to reveal any negative consequences in producing lab-grown meat as an alternative to killing or harming animals, Paul Teng, a specialist in agritechnology innovations at Nanyang Technological University, said.
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