Shiok Meats announced that they raised $4.6 million to complete their seed round of funding. Based in Singapore, Shiok Meats is the first cell-based meat company in Southeast Asia. Founded by Sandhya Sriram and Ka Yi Ling, Shiok Meats plans to produce cell-based seafood, like shrimp and other crustaceans, using cellular agriculture.
Shiok Meats’ financing round was led by Monde Nissin, a leading food consumers goods company in the Philippines. Other investors in the round include Big Idea Ventures, Aera VC, Beyond Impact, and Boom Capital. The funding round also included Y Combinator, a leading accelerator program for early stage startups.
Cellular Agriculture and Seafood
Cellular agriculture is the field of growing animal products, like meat, from cells instead of raising animals for the same products. Compared to the present animal agricultural system, cellular agriculture provides an alternative and sustainable way to produce the same animal products.
Cellular agriculture in the seafood sector is a massive opportunity to improve the current system, particularly with shrimp aquaculture farming. In many parts of Asia, shrimps are farmed in aquaculture where they are exposed to excess antibiotics and hormones.
The overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture is already a growing global crisis. A recent Canadian study found that 17% of shrimp imports, mainly coming from Asia, contained bacteria that were resistant to at least one type of antibiotic.
If produced in a sterile environment, cellular agriculture (or, in this case, cellular aquaculture) offers a way to produce cell-based shrimp without requiring antibiotics. Without animals.
Investing in the Ecosystem
For many of Shiok Meats’ investors, this is not the first time they have invested in the cellular agriculture or alternative protein space. Lead investor Monde Nissin acquired UK-based mycoprotein company Quorn in 2015 for £550 million. Similarly, Aera VC has previously invested in Wild Earth, a sustainable pet food company. Wild Earth’s CEO and co-founder, Ryan Bethancourt, is also one of Shiok Meats’ early angel investors.
Big Idea Ventures invested in Shiok Meats from their New Protein Fund, which was backed by meat conglomerate Tyson Foods and Singapore sovereign fund Temasek. Tyson has previously invested in cell-based meat companies Memphis Meats and Israel-based Future Meat Technologies. Temasek has been a key investor in animal-free dairy milk company Perfect Day Foods.
The $4.6 million seed round now makes Shiok Meats one of the best funded cell-based meat company. As of April 2019, only Memphis Meats, which raised $17 million in their series A in 2017, and Mosa Meat, which raised $8.8 million in August 2018, have both raised more capital than Shiok Meats. It is a promising sign that the field is growing and there are investors looking to change the future of food.
In March, Shiok Meats made history and showcased the first ever cell-based shrimp dumpling in Singapore. Co-founders Sandhya Sriram and Ka Yi Ling presented their dumplings alongside the Good Food Institute’s Managing Director of Asia Pacific, Elaine Siu, and advisers John Cheng of Innovate 360 and Henry Soesanto, the CEO of Monde Nissin.
While Shiok Meats offers a sustainable solution, Sandhya Sriram shared that the cost of producing 8 cell-based shrimp dumplings was $5,000. There is still quite time before their cell-based shrimp comes to market.
Shiok Meats plans to use the round of funding to invest in more research and development capabilities as well as add more bioprocess engineers to the team. They expect to scale their production levels to commercial levels in 2 to 3 years.