S’pore Startup Shiok Meats Makes Cell-Based Meat That Mimics Seafood

Fancy siew may made from cell-based meat with the same taste and texture as real meat without the cruelty to animals and environmental impact?

Meet Shiok Meats (“Shiok”) disrupting the seafood industry – it’s the first clean meat company of its kind in Singapore and Southeast Asia.

“Shiok,” which basically means fantastic and delicious in local slang, specializes in clean, wholesome seafood and meats harvested from cells rather than animals.

However, in 2015/2016, there was a lack of opportunities in biomedical research for ready-made thinkers and actors, said Dr Sandhya Sriram, CEO and co-founder of Shiok Meats.

With “the drive to innovate and disrupt, especially in the sustainability sector,” two female scientists Sandhya and co-founder Dr Ka Yi Ling set out to transform the industry.

Growing cell-based meats

Dr Ka Yi Ling and Dr Sandhya Sriram
Dr Ka Yi Ling and Dr Sandhya Sriram / Image Credit: Shiok Meats

Sandhya, 35, is a stem cell specialist with over 10 years of experience working in muscle, fat cells, cells and stem cells.

After obtaining a doctorate from Nanyang Technological University in
Singapore, Sandhya continued her postdoctoral studies at A * STAR in Singapore. After four years of postdoctoral work, she started business development in a research institute.

At the same time, she co-founded two companies, Biotech In Asia and SciGlo. Sandhya has been featured on Forbes Women in Tech for her entrepreneurial endeavors.

When Shiok started up in August 2018, the alternative protein industry was nascent in Singapore and Shiok was the very first cell-based meat company in the region, so we had to face many challenges to even get started and we install.

In 2018, Shiok had to use an offshore lab as none were available in Singapore that suited our needs. We’re not a spin-off of a university or institute – we’re an independent company that started with just an idea and minimal angel investment – so it was difficult to find lab space, funding, et cetera.

– Dr Sandhya Sriram, CEO and Co-Founder, Shiok Meats

Shiok meats
Image Credit: Shiok Meats

Shiok sets itself apart from other cell-based meat production companies because of its proprietary technology that isolates stem cells from shrimp, lobster and crab – they are the first company to be able to do this for cell-based production. .

Cell-based siew mai
Cell-based Siew May / Image Credit: Shiok Meats

After the stem cells are harvested, the shrimp, lobster and crab meats are grown under nutrient-rich conditions, similar to those in a greenhouse.

After four to six weeks, the cell-based seafood is exactly the same as its conventional counterpart but more durable, clean, and nutritious.

Shiok’s patent-pending technology can grow shellfish four times faster than conventional production.

Fundraising of $ 20.4M to date

The duo started the company with an angel investment of S $ 10,000 that grew to S $ 50,000, and then closed a S $ 4.6 million funding round in about eight months.

To date, Shiok has raised a total of S $ 20.4 million in five rounds.

Their most recent round of funding in September 2020, which enabled them to raise S $ 12.6 million in Series A funding.

The cycle is led by Aqua-Spark, the first investment fund focused on sustainable aquaculture.

The funds will be used to build the first commercial of its kind
pilot plant from which “ Shiok ” plans to launch its chopped shrimp product in 2022.

Shiok meats
Image Credit: Shiok Meats

The output of the Shiok pilot plant will be cell-based frozen shrimp meat for dumplings and other shrimp dishes.

Beyond cell-based shrimp, Shiok plans to launch shrimp flavoring paste and powder, fully formed 3D shrimp, and cell-based lobster and crab products in the coming years.

Disrupt the seafood industry

Cell-based shrimp, which is also their flagship product, offers clean and traceable alternatives to the shrimp farming industry.

The shrimp market is worth S $ 50 billion worldwide, with Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and India being the major producers of shrimp.

While there are many farms and technologies that improve shrimp farming, there is still work to be done.

Typically, shrimp are raised in factories or crowded farms and treated with antibiotics, chemicals, and hormones.

shrimp farming
Shrimp Farming / Image Credit: The Asian Age

This conventional production method often contributes to overfishing, excessive bycatch, misrepresentation and mislabelling as well as contamination from effluents, heavy metals and microplastics.

This form of production is not sustainable and the tension in the sector will only increase with the growth of the population.

Shrimp farm in Thailand
A shrimp farm in Thailand / Image credit: Hakai Magazine

According to Shiok, producing clean meat could reduce the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions by 96%, energy consumption by 45%, land use by 99% and water consumption by 96%.

Startups and food giants are striving to invent and improve alternatives to traditional meat production, with consumers paying more attention to nutrition and the environment.

As fake meat companies such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat expand into new markets, other startups are working on lab-grown alternatives that want to enjoy the meat and seafood experience without sacrificing the animals.

So far, Shiok Meats is showing great promise in its research and development.

Featured Image Credit: Shiok Meats

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Jothi Venkat

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