A month after unveiling its whole cut plant-based salmon fillets, alternative seafood startup Plantish has raised $12.45 million from a seed round and contemplates initial distribution via restaurants. Focused on breaking into the foodservice industry first, Plantish will use the new funds to build its team and accelerate product development, such as the additive manufacturing (AM) technology used to produce alternative whole-cut fish filets at low cost and massive scale.
The round saw participation from a consortium of funds and angel investors led by Israeli venture capital firm State Of Mind Ventures. Other backers include Pitango Health Tech, Unovis Capital, SmartAgro, E2JDJ, Alumni Ventures, FoodHack, Honeybook, and OurCrowd. As well as existing investors Yaron Samid from TechAviv Founder Partners and Michelin-star Chef Jose Andreas. The move brings the total funding raised by the startup to $14.5 million, having previously received support from six investors during a $2 million pre-seed funding round in June 2021.
Following the footsteps of the $6.67 billion plant-based meat market, Plantish CEO and Co-Founder Ofek Ron says, “now it’s the time for fish.” The Israeli entrepreneur who oversees creates and runs high-scale ventures and is an animal rights activist points out that one of the biggest challenges for the alternative fish industry has been replicating the taste, texture, mouthfeel, and structure of whole-cut fish.
With Over 70% of conventional fish consumed globally in whole-cut form, either as whole fish or fillets, the obvious alternative to fish should also be in that whole-cut form. However, the alternative seafood sector primarily consists of minced fish options, such as fish fingers and fried fish, due to the technical complexities of whole-cut production.
Plantfish has tackled these challenges by relying on the right plant proteins to achieve the fibrous strands meant to replicate the complex texture of animal muscle. This, it claims, is the key to succeeding in capturing the experience of eating salmon.
Moreover, doing so at scale will make it a suitable substitute for food service, restaurants, and retail, especially considering that at the actual rate of consumption, humans are draining the oceans of seafood at an alarming rate. As a result, new alternatives to animal protein are attracting a lot of attention. And for good reason. Shocking environmental facts from The World Counts estimate that if overfishing does not stop, the world will run out of seafood by 2048.
But roughly half of the world’s seafood is wild-caught, and about half is raised in farms. In fact, aquaculture has expanded about 14-fold since 1980. Even though a recent study from the United Nations shows that aquaculture can improve food security and nutrition by increasing the amount of seafood available for people to eat, there have been reports of several environmental side effects of the farming technique. It’s not just organic pollution and wastes ruining the ecosystem; aquaculture poses several serious health risks, from antibiotics and hormones used to treat the fish.
“Cracking whole-cut seafood is the next big opportunity in our quest for impact and sustainability,” said Merav Rotem Naaman, General Partner at State Of Mind Ventures. “When we met the world-class team at Plantish we knew that they had the passion, vision, and capability to pull off the seemingly impossible task of producing a true upgrade to fish”.
Fish, No Fish
Founded in mid-2021, Plantish’s mission is to save the oceans through its original fake fish products. In early January, the startup gave consumers a first look at its flagship product, a 100% plant-based whole-cut salmon fillet, mimicking cooked salmon in texture, taste, appearance, and structure. The company claims its trademarked Plantish salmon is nutritionally similar to conventional salmon and high in protein, Omega-3s, Omega-6s, and B vitamins.
Created using its own versatile, patent-pending additive manufacturing technology, Plantish salmon is created “one super-fine layer at a time.” Moreover, Plantish’s current prototype can be prepared and cooked in all the methods that conventional salmon is prepared.
“We love fish and are not trying to change what consumers want,” said Ron. “We are just offering a delicious upgrade to salmon that is safer for you and better for the planet. No antibiotics, no hormones, no mercury, no bycatch, and no compromise.”
Trying to sway consumers of a $253 billion global seafood market to switch to an alternative product will not be easy. Approximately three billion people rely on wild-caught and farmed seafood as a primary source of protein. But still, fish replacements could take the world by storm. A new poll conducted by Sprouts Farmers Market and One Poll in 2021 showed that more than half of young Americans aged 24 through 39 identify themselves as flexitarians and are actively seeking alternatives that have the same taste and nutritional value as natural animal meats.
Initially, Ron targets the salmon market, which he said accounts for $50 billion, and hopes to cater to the foodservice industry.
“We understand that over 60% of seafood is eaten outside the home, and salmon is among the most popular fish and animal protein in the world. Therefore we are focusing our efforts on the foodservice route and you can expect to see us in fine dining restaurants within the next two years.”
Developing sustainable food alternatives is one of the most critical shifts the food system must undergo in the upcoming years to reach a sustainable and resilient state. So far, Plantish is competing with other startups, including Sea2Cell, Wanda Fish, and Revo Foods, to additively manufacture alternative seafood to become the world’s leading fish brand without hurting a single fish.
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