Finding new ways to fish: offshore fish farms, waste opportunities and cultured seafood

Finding new ways to fish: offshore fish farms, waste opportunities and cultured seafood

By
Louise Burfitt
October 27, 2020

High-growth aquaculture is one such alternative. Although aquaculture generally has a lower environmental footprint than wild catch, near-shore fish farms have led to concentrated areas of waste in coastal waters and disease outbreaks in fish. Companies like Innovasea are pioneering open ocean aquaculture, where fisheries are located further from the coast than traditional fish farms. The strong currents and deeper waters help to disperse waste and the effects of fish farming on coastal areas is reduced. However, few companies are yet operating large fish farms offshore, so this sector requires more research and technological development to become a fully viable method of production.

A swath of Singaporean startups are swearing off the ocean entirely, developing vertical fish farms similar to urban vegetable farms. Fish are farmed in multi-storey indoor ponds with every element from water temperature to light levels carefully optimised. Fin By Boat has developed an indoor fish farming method suitable for modern cities and are breeding tilapia and jade perch in the heart of Singapore. The city state is becoming a hub for urban aquaculture, thanks to its wealth and desire for local food production – as well as its population’s love for seafood. As these technologies develop, Singapore’s trajectory could provide a blueprint for other cities.

Waste is a big problem in the seafood supply chain with one in three fish wasted and  fish heads, tails and bones routinely thrown away. That leaves a lot of room to innovate with what might otherwise be thrown away. Step in the savvy startups creating value from the industry’s leftovers. Healthy snacking is emerging as an especially viable category: US company Epic, for example, is making salmon jerky with fish flesh saved from landfill.

Other companies are choosing to leave fish in the sea by cloning fish cells in the lab, similar to cell-based meat. Wild Type bagged $12.5 million last year to cultivate its sushi-grade salmon in a test tube while Finless Foods are developing cell-based fishcakes. Meanwhile, Avant Foods are making lab-grown versions of Hong Kong favourites including fish maw and sea cucumber.

Case Studies: Blue Nalu and One For Neptune

Blue Nalu is also shunning the ocean entirely with its take on cell-based fish. The Mosa Meat of the seafood world has already demo-ed its cultured yellowtail amberjack to great reviews. Compared to its main competitors, Blue Nalu’s cultured fish offering is one-of-a-kind: whether steamed, seared or served as sushi, its ‘fish’ acts exactly like its ocean-going counterpart. The US startup raised $20 million in Series A funding this year and is now building a pilot production plant and expanding its R&D branch.
Meanwhile, One For Neptune are tackling waste in the supply chain with their white fish jerky sourced from small-scale fisheries on the US West Coast. This high-protein snack has proved a hit with health nuts and pescetarians – proof that the company’s mission of providing a healthy hit for snack lovers while addressing seafood sustainability challenges is a viable one. The jerky – which comes in four flavours including Fiery Cajun – is already available in 60 US stores. The firm is now actively working with seafood processors to identify other waste that could be turned into innovative seafood snacks.

Hurdles: COVID-19 and competition

The fish and seafood market, particularly in Europe, was growing rapidly in early 2020, with sustainable options experiencing impressive returns. However, the pandemic stopped this trend in its tracks given the sector’s dependency on international trade and the closure of restaurants. However, once restrictions are fully lifted, the market is expected to regain lost momentum. And sustainable seafood now seems more on trend than ever: border closures are leading to increased interest in shortened supply chains, leading to more investment in practices like urban aquaculture and cell-based seafood.

Sustainable seafood doesn’t exist in a vacuum – there’s strong competition from fish, whether wild-caught or traditionally farmed, and plant-based fish. The former is generally cheaper and more easily accessible for consumers – and older consumers are likely to gravitate to what they know. Meanwhile, vegan ‘fish’ is already popular with millennials and Generation X-ers. Sustainable seafood brands will need to get their marketing, pricing and positioning exactly right to target the most viable demographics. Making the environmental and ethical credentials of sustainable seafood clear and convincing will be the real key to success.

30-second pitch: sustainable seafood

🐟 What

  • As people are eating double the amount of fish as they were in the 1960s, sustainable seafood startups are finding new ways to meet increased demand that are kinder to the ocean and its inhabitants.  


🤷‍♂️ Why

  • Sustainable seafood methods aim to find more ethical, eco-friendly ways to supply enough fish to meet rising demand.  
  • Fish farmed sustainably could be an efficient way to provide the world’s growing population with protein, compared to traditional agriculture.
  • Seafood grown in a laboratory or in carefully controlled settings limits contamination risks (like mercury and microplastics).


🎣 How

  • Urban aquaculture, including vertical fish farming
  • Open ocean/offshore aquaculture
  • Cell-based seafood
  • Reducing waste in the seafood supply chain


👀 Who


👍 The good

  • Offshore aquaculture, cell-based fish and vertical fish farms could address the environmental and ethical issues linked to traditional fishing practices.
  • Companies producing fish jerky are tackling waste in the seafood supply chain, and addressing a customer desire for healthy to-go snacks at the same time.
  • Sustainable seafood appeals to millennials and health-conscious consumers.


👎 The bad

  • At present, ethical alternatives are more expensive and less accessible to certain demographics, so companies must convince with a clear mission.
  • More research and advances in technology are needed before open ocean aquaculture can offer a truly viable alternative to current farming methods.


💡 The bottom line

  • The appetite for sustainably farmed seafood is only likely to grow in the coming months and years, as ethics and environmental concerns become even more pressing. While COVID-19 may have negatively impacted the market in the short term, its longer term effects are likely to equal increased interest in sustainable, local alternatives to traditional fish farming and wild catch.


Written by
Louise Burfitt

Louise is an editor and writer based in Oxfordshire. When her nose isn’t buried in a dictionary, you’re most likely to find her taking long weekend walks or nurturing herbs and vegetables in her container garden.

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  • Get listed on our directory
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High-growth aquaculture is one such alternative. Although aquaculture generally has a lower environmental footprint than wild catch, near-shore fish farms have led to concentrated areas of waste in coastal waters and disease outbreaks in fish. Companies like Innovasea are pioneering open ocean aquaculture, where fisheries are located further from the coast than traditional fish farms. The strong currents and deeper waters help to disperse waste and the effects of fish farming on coastal areas is reduced. However, few companies are yet operating large fish farms offshore, so this sector requires more research and technological development to become a fully viable method of production.

A swath of Singaporean startups are swearing off the ocean entirely, developing vertical fish farms similar to urban vegetable farms. Fish are farmed in multi-storey indoor ponds with every element from water temperature to light levels carefully optimised. Fin By Boat has developed an indoor fish farming method suitable for modern cities and are breeding tilapia and jade perch in the heart of Singapore. The city state is becoming a hub for urban aquaculture, thanks to its wealth and desire for local food production – as well as its population’s love for seafood. As these technologies develop, Singapore’s trajectory could provide a blueprint for other cities.

Waste is a big problem in the seafood supply chain with one in three fish wasted and  fish heads, tails and bones routinely thrown away. That leaves a lot of room to innovate with what might otherwise be thrown away. Step in the savvy startups creating value from the industry’s leftovers. Healthy snacking is emerging as an especially viable category: US company Epic, for example, is making salmon jerky with fish flesh saved from landfill.

Other companies are choosing to leave fish in the sea by cloning fish cells in the lab, similar to cell-based meat. Wild Type bagged $12.5 million last year to cultivate its sushi-grade salmon in a test tube while Finless Foods are developing cell-based fishcakes. Meanwhile, Avant Foods are making lab-grown versions of Hong Kong favourites including fish maw and sea cucumber.

Case Studies: Blue Nalu and One For Neptune

Blue Nalu is also shunning the ocean entirely with its take on cell-based fish. The Mosa Meat of the seafood world has already demo-ed its cultured yellowtail amberjack to great reviews. Compared to its main competitors, Blue Nalu’s cultured fish offering is one-of-a-kind: whether steamed, seared or served as sushi, its ‘fish’ acts exactly like its ocean-going counterpart. The US startup raised $20 million in Series A funding this year and is now building a pilot production plant and expanding its R&D branch.
Meanwhile, One For Neptune are tackling waste in the supply chain with their white fish jerky sourced from small-scale fisheries on the US West Coast. This high-protein snack has proved a hit with health nuts and pescetarians – proof that the company’s mission of providing a healthy hit for snack lovers while addressing seafood sustainability challenges is a viable one. The jerky – which comes in four flavours including Fiery Cajun – is already available in 60 US stores. The firm is now actively working with seafood processors to identify other waste that could be turned into innovative seafood snacks.

Hurdles: COVID-19 and competition

The fish and seafood market, particularly in Europe, was growing rapidly in early 2020, with sustainable options experiencing impressive returns. However, the pandemic stopped this trend in its tracks given the sector’s dependency on international trade and the closure of restaurants. However, once restrictions are fully lifted, the market is expected to regain lost momentum. And sustainable seafood now seems more on trend than ever: border closures are leading to increased interest in shortened supply chains, leading to more investment in practices like urban aquaculture and cell-based seafood.

Sustainable seafood doesn’t exist in a vacuum – there’s strong competition from fish, whether wild-caught or traditionally farmed, and plant-based fish. The former is generally cheaper and more easily accessible for consumers – and older consumers are likely to gravitate to what they know. Meanwhile, vegan ‘fish’ is already popular with millennials and Generation X-ers. Sustainable seafood brands will need to get their marketing, pricing and positioning exactly right to target the most viable demographics. Making the environmental and ethical credentials of sustainable seafood clear and convincing will be the real key to success.

30-second pitch: sustainable seafood

🐟 What

  • As people are eating double the amount of fish as they were in the 1960s, sustainable seafood startups are finding new ways to meet increased demand that are kinder to the ocean and its inhabitants.  


🤷‍♂️ Why

  • Sustainable seafood methods aim to find more ethical, eco-friendly ways to supply enough fish to meet rising demand.  
  • Fish farmed sustainably could be an efficient way to provide the world’s growing population with protein, compared to traditional agriculture.
  • Seafood grown in a laboratory or in carefully controlled settings limits contamination risks (like mercury and microplastics).


🎣 How

  • Urban aquaculture, including vertical fish farming
  • Open ocean/offshore aquaculture
  • Cell-based seafood
  • Reducing waste in the seafood supply chain


👀 Who


👍 The good

  • Offshore aquaculture, cell-based fish and vertical fish farms could address the environmental and ethical issues linked to traditional fishing practices.
  • Companies producing fish jerky are tackling waste in the seafood supply chain, and addressing a customer desire for healthy to-go snacks at the same time.
  • Sustainable seafood appeals to millennials and health-conscious consumers.


👎 The bad

  • At present, ethical alternatives are more expensive and less accessible to certain demographics, so companies must convince with a clear mission.
  • More research and advances in technology are needed before open ocean aquaculture can offer a truly viable alternative to current farming methods.


💡 The bottom line

  • The appetite for sustainably farmed seafood is only likely to grow in the coming months and years, as ethics and environmental concerns become even more pressing. While COVID-19 may have negatively impacted the market in the short term, its longer term effects are likely to equal increased interest in sustainable, local alternatives to traditional fish farming and wild catch.


Become a FoodHack+ member to get unlimited access

  • Access premium publications
  • Get listed on our directory
  • Join a Global Community
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High-growth aquaculture is one such alternative. Although aquaculture generally has a lower environmental footprint than wild catch, near-shore fish farms have led to concentrated areas of waste in coastal waters and disease outbreaks in fish. Companies like Innovasea are pioneering open ocean aquaculture, where fisheries are located further from the coast than traditional fish farms. The strong currents and deeper waters help to disperse waste and the effects of fish farming on coastal areas is reduced. However, few companies are yet operating large fish farms offshore, so this sector requires more research and technological development to become a fully viable method of production.

A swath of Singaporean startups are swearing off the ocean entirely, developing vertical fish farms similar to urban vegetable farms. Fish are farmed in multi-storey indoor ponds with every element from water temperature to light levels carefully optimised. Fin By Boat has developed an indoor fish farming method suitable for modern cities and are breeding tilapia and jade perch in the heart of Singapore. The city state is becoming a hub for urban aquaculture, thanks to its wealth and desire for local food production – as well as its population’s love for seafood. As these technologies develop, Singapore’s trajectory could provide a blueprint for other cities.

Waste is a big problem in the seafood supply chain with one in three fish wasted and  fish heads, tails and bones routinely thrown away. That leaves a lot of room to innovate with what might otherwise be thrown away. Step in the savvy startups creating value from the industry’s leftovers. Healthy snacking is emerging as an especially viable category: US company Epic, for example, is making salmon jerky with fish flesh saved from landfill.

Other companies are choosing to leave fish in the sea by cloning fish cells in the lab, similar to cell-based meat. Wild Type bagged $12.5 million last year to cultivate its sushi-grade salmon in a test tube while Finless Foods are developing cell-based fishcakes. Meanwhile, Avant Foods are making lab-grown versions of Hong Kong favourites including fish maw and sea cucumber.

Case Studies: Blue Nalu and One For Neptune

Blue Nalu is also shunning the ocean entirely with its take on cell-based fish. The Mosa Meat of the seafood world has already demo-ed its cultured yellowtail amberjack to great reviews. Compared to its main competitors, Blue Nalu’s cultured fish offering is one-of-a-kind: whether steamed, seared or served as sushi, its ‘fish’ acts exactly like its ocean-going counterpart. The US startup raised $20 million in Series A funding this year and is now building a pilot production plant and expanding its R&D branch.
Meanwhile, One For Neptune are tackling waste in the supply chain with their white fish jerky sourced from small-scale fisheries on the US West Coast. This high-protein snack has proved a hit with health nuts and pescetarians – proof that the company’s mission of providing a healthy hit for snack lovers while addressing seafood sustainability challenges is a viable one. The jerky – which comes in four flavours including Fiery Cajun – is already available in 60 US stores. The firm is now actively working with seafood processors to identify other waste that could be turned into innovative seafood snacks.

Hurdles: COVID-19 and competition

The fish and seafood market, particularly in Europe, was growing rapidly in early 2020, with sustainable options experiencing impressive returns. However, the pandemic stopped this trend in its tracks given the sector’s dependency on international trade and the closure of restaurants. However, once restrictions are fully lifted, the market is expected to regain lost momentum. And sustainable seafood now seems more on trend than ever: border closures are leading to increased interest in shortened supply chains, leading to more investment in practices like urban aquaculture and cell-based seafood.

Sustainable seafood doesn’t exist in a vacuum – there’s strong competition from fish, whether wild-caught or traditionally farmed, and plant-based fish. The former is generally cheaper and more easily accessible for consumers – and older consumers are likely to gravitate to what they know. Meanwhile, vegan ‘fish’ is already popular with millennials and Generation X-ers. Sustainable seafood brands will need to get their marketing, pricing and positioning exactly right to target the most viable demographics. Making the environmental and ethical credentials of sustainable seafood clear and convincing will be the real key to success.

30-second pitch: sustainable seafood

🐟 What

  • As people are eating double the amount of fish as they were in the 1960s, sustainable seafood startups are finding new ways to meet increased demand that are kinder to the ocean and its inhabitants.  


🤷‍♂️ Why

  • Sustainable seafood methods aim to find more ethical, eco-friendly ways to supply enough fish to meet rising demand.  
  • Fish farmed sustainably could be an efficient way to provide the world’s growing population with protein, compared to traditional agriculture.
  • Seafood grown in a laboratory or in carefully controlled settings limits contamination risks (like mercury and microplastics).


🎣 How

  • Urban aquaculture, including vertical fish farming
  • Open ocean/offshore aquaculture
  • Cell-based seafood
  • Reducing waste in the seafood supply chain


👀 Who


👍 The good

  • Offshore aquaculture, cell-based fish and vertical fish farms could address the environmental and ethical issues linked to traditional fishing practices.
  • Companies producing fish jerky are tackling waste in the seafood supply chain, and addressing a customer desire for healthy to-go snacks at the same time.
  • Sustainable seafood appeals to millennials and health-conscious consumers.


👎 The bad

  • At present, ethical alternatives are more expensive and less accessible to certain demographics, so companies must convince with a clear mission.
  • More research and advances in technology are needed before open ocean aquaculture can offer a truly viable alternative to current farming methods.


💡 The bottom line

  • The appetite for sustainably farmed seafood is only likely to grow in the coming months and years, as ethics and environmental concerns become even more pressing. While COVID-19 may have negatively impacted the market in the short term, its longer term effects are likely to equal increased interest in sustainable, local alternatives to traditional fish farming and wild catch.


High-growth aquaculture is one such alternative. Although aquaculture generally has a lower environmental footprint than wild catch, near-shore fish farms have led to concentrated areas of waste in coastal waters and disease outbreaks in fish. Companies like Innovasea are pioneering open ocean aquaculture, where fisheries are located further from the coast than traditional fish farms. The strong currents and deeper waters help to disperse waste and the effects of fish farming on coastal areas is reduced. However, few companies are yet operating large fish farms offshore, so this sector requires more research and technological development to become a fully viable method of production.

A swath of Singaporean startups are swearing off the ocean entirely, developing vertical fish farms similar to urban vegetable farms. Fish are farmed in multi-storey indoor ponds with every element from water temperature to light levels carefully optimised. Fin By Boat has developed an indoor fish farming method suitable for modern cities and are breeding tilapia and jade perch in the heart of Singapore. The city state is becoming a hub for urban aquaculture, thanks to its wealth and desire for local food production – as well as its population’s love for seafood. As these technologies develop, Singapore’s trajectory could provide a blueprint for other cities.

Waste is a big problem in the seafood supply chain with one in three fish wasted and  fish heads, tails and bones routinely thrown away. That leaves a lot of room to innovate with what might otherwise be thrown away. Step in the savvy startups creating value from the industry’s leftovers. Healthy snacking is emerging as an especially viable category: US company Epic, for example, is making salmon jerky with fish flesh saved from landfill.

Other companies are choosing to leave fish in the sea by cloning fish cells in the lab, similar to cell-based meat. Wild Type bagged $12.5 million last year to cultivate its sushi-grade salmon in a test tube while Finless Foods are developing cell-based fishcakes. Meanwhile, Avant Foods are making lab-grown versions of Hong Kong favourites including fish maw and sea cucumber.

Case Studies: Blue Nalu and One For Neptune

Blue Nalu is also shunning the ocean entirely with its take on cell-based fish. The Mosa Meat of the seafood world has already demo-ed its cultured yellowtail amberjack to great reviews. Compared to its main competitors, Blue Nalu’s cultured fish offering is one-of-a-kind: whether steamed, seared or served as sushi, its ‘fish’ acts exactly like its ocean-going counterpart. The US startup raised $20 million in Series A funding this year and is now building a pilot production plant and expanding its R&D branch.
Meanwhile, One For Neptune are tackling waste in the supply chain with their white fish jerky sourced from small-scale fisheries on the US West Coast. This high-protein snack has proved a hit with health nuts and pescetarians – proof that the company’s mission of providing a healthy hit for snack lovers while addressing seafood sustainability challenges is a viable one. The jerky – which comes in four flavours including Fiery Cajun – is already available in 60 US stores. The firm is now actively working with seafood processors to identify other waste that could be turned into innovative seafood snacks.

Hurdles: COVID-19 and competition

The fish and seafood market, particularly in Europe, was growing rapidly in early 2020, with sustainable options experiencing impressive returns. However, the pandemic stopped this trend in its tracks given the sector’s dependency on international trade and the closure of restaurants. However, once restrictions are fully lifted, the market is expected to regain lost momentum. And sustainable seafood now seems more on trend than ever: border closures are leading to increased interest in shortened supply chains, leading to more investment in practices like urban aquaculture and cell-based seafood.

Sustainable seafood doesn’t exist in a vacuum – there’s strong competition from fish, whether wild-caught or traditionally farmed, and plant-based fish. The former is generally cheaper and more easily accessible for consumers – and older consumers are likely to gravitate to what they know. Meanwhile, vegan ‘fish’ is already popular with millennials and Generation X-ers. Sustainable seafood brands will need to get their marketing, pricing and positioning exactly right to target the most viable demographics. Making the environmental and ethical credentials of sustainable seafood clear and convincing will be the real key to success.

30-second pitch: sustainable seafood

🐟 What

  • As people are eating double the amount of fish as they were in the 1960s, sustainable seafood startups are finding new ways to meet increased demand that are kinder to the ocean and its inhabitants.  


🤷‍♂️ Why

  • Sustainable seafood methods aim to find more ethical, eco-friendly ways to supply enough fish to meet rising demand.  
  • Fish farmed sustainably could be an efficient way to provide the world’s growing population with protein, compared to traditional agriculture.
  • Seafood grown in a laboratory or in carefully controlled settings limits contamination risks (like mercury and microplastics).


🎣 How

  • Urban aquaculture, including vertical fish farming
  • Open ocean/offshore aquaculture
  • Cell-based seafood
  • Reducing waste in the seafood supply chain


👀 Who


👍 The good

  • Offshore aquaculture, cell-based fish and vertical fish farms could address the environmental and ethical issues linked to traditional fishing practices.
  • Companies producing fish jerky are tackling waste in the seafood supply chain, and addressing a customer desire for healthy to-go snacks at the same time.
  • Sustainable seafood appeals to millennials and health-conscious consumers.


👎 The bad

  • At present, ethical alternatives are more expensive and less accessible to certain demographics, so companies must convince with a clear mission.
  • More research and advances in technology are needed before open ocean aquaculture can offer a truly viable alternative to current farming methods.


💡 The bottom line

  • The appetite for sustainably farmed seafood is only likely to grow in the coming months and years, as ethics and environmental concerns become even more pressing. While COVID-19 may have negatively impacted the market in the short term, its longer term effects are likely to equal increased interest in sustainable, local alternatives to traditional fish farming and wild catch.