San Diego Startup Targets Large-Scale Facility by 2026 to Meet Growing Demand for Cultivated Seafood
Cellular aquaculture pioneer BlueNalu has successfully raised $33.5 million in a Series B funding round, bolstering its efforts to produce lab-grown bluefin tuna and transform the seafood industry. The announcement comes as part of an escalating investment trend in cellular agriculture, aimed at making food production more sustainable and less reliant on traditional fishing methods.
The Funding Landscape
The latest round saw participation from both new and existing investors, according to UK-based venture capital firm Agronomics, which itself holds a 5.12% equity stake in BlueNalu. The San Diego startup has previously secured $4.5 million in seed funding in 2018, $20 million in a Series A round in 2019, and $60 million in convertible note financing in 2020. Agronomics' investment in BlueNalu is now carried forward at a book value of £13.3 million, representing about 8% of the firm's last published net asset value.
Scaling Up for Market Launch
BlueNalu operates from a pilot facility in San Diego, where it is working to produce "batches in the hundreds of pounds" for an initial small-scale launch. The company has ambitious plans to break ground on a large-scale plant by 2026, which aims to achieve commercial-scale production 18 months later.
CEO Lou Cooperhouse revealed that the location for this large-scale facility would depend on market feedback and offtake commitments, which could also influence the capital required for the project.
Targeting High-Value Bluefin Tuna Market
Unlike other cultivated meat startups focusing on hybrid products, BlueNalu aims to produce whole muscle bluefin tuna toro — a high-value, premium product. Bluefin tuna toro is scarce and faces challenges like overfishing and inconsistent quality. Cooperhouse stated that producing it in a bioreactor could ensure a consistent and eco-friendly product free of mercury and microplastics.
Economic Viability and Market Potential
Speaking after extending strategic partnerships in Japan, Korea, and Thailand, Cooperhouse remains optimistic about the venture's economic prospects. He highlighted that, according to a techno-economic analysis, a large-scale facility could achieve margins "north of 70%" and produce 6 million pounds of bluefin tuna toro annually.
"Given the value of bluefin tuna, the rate of return will be quite rapid. This is based on selling at price parity with conventional tuna, even though consumers have said they're willing to pay a premium for this type of product," Cooperhouse added.
As BlueNalu continues its quest to disrupt the seafood industry, this latest round of investment marks another significant milestone in its growth trajectory, shining a light on the burgeoning potential of cellular agriculture to sustainably meet global food demands.