Glistening fish fillets grown from their own cells are set to be on the market as soon as next year.

A needle biopsy takes the cells mainly from the fish muscle tissue that are then nurtured on a mix of liquid vitamins, amino acids and sugars. San Diego-based BlueNalu launched in 2018 and is now a leader in the cellular aquaculture movement.

President and CEO Lou Cooperhouse spoke with Tradex about the company’s plans for bringing its fish to markets.

“We are designing a best-in-class processing facility, to manufacture cell-based seafood, and what it becomes is an innovation center, where we can continually roll out new species and in new forms. Like Mahi Mahi, then Bluefin Tuna, as a cube, as a fillet, as a strip, then get market feedback. So if we were to talk again this time next year, we would have product in commerce. It is our objective to have product in the test market for early 2022, if not sooner, in restaurants around the nation.”  

Cooperhouse said BlueNalu plans to break ground on a 40,000 square foot pilot factory within two years, thanks to $60 million in financing. Its goal is to begin selling to global markets shortly after.

The company calls cell-based seafood a third addition to the seafood supply chain, alongside wild-caught and farm-raised fish. Its goal is to provide a consistent product with 100% yield with the exact same nutritional benefits of conventional fish.

BlueNalu also touts cell grown seafood as being cleaner with no environmental pollutants such as mercury or microplastics, having a longer shelf life and no genetic engineering.

Cooperhouse said while there has been cell-based growing on mammals, their work with fish is a first.

“I think what we’ve identified at BlueNalu, there was basically a blank piece of paper, nobody had the knowledge of propagating fish cells, the science was all on mammalian cells. But obviously everything is distinctive and we’re all figuring this out together, but there’s clearly no barriers to getting this accomplished. It just takes the time and tenacity to figure out the exact approach.”

BlueNalu says it believes in truthful and accurate labeling that identifies all fish as wild, farmed, genetically tweaked or cell-cultured.