The growing interest of consumers in alternative protein and meat substitutes has brought hundreds of millions of dollars to companies seeking to grow or replace beef or chicken, but few companies have focused on developing alternatives to seafood.
Now Shiok Meats is looking to change that. The company has raised pre-seed financing from investors such as AIM Partners, Boom Capital and Bryan Bettencourt and is now part of the youngest cohort of Y Combinator which will be presented next week.
Co-founders Sandiya Shriram and Ka Yi Ling are both stem cell scientists working at the Singapore Science, Technology and Research Agency and decided to put their comfortable government offices on the fast lane of entrepreneurship.
The two have set themselves the goal of creating a shrimp substitute similar to what would normally be found in the freezer of most grocery stores ̵
There is a huge seafood market around the world, but especially in Asia and Southeast Asia, where crustaceans make up a large part of the diet. Consumers in China alone consume about 3.6 million tonnes of crustaceans, according to a study by the United Food and Agriculture Department in 1945 .
Shrimp cultivation is also a pretty dirty business in this regard. The industry is constantly criticized for poor working conditions, unhygienic operations and additional environmental damage. A blockbuster report from the Associated Press revealed examples of modern slavery in the Thai seafood industry.
"We chose shrimp because it's a simpler animal than crabs and lobsters," he says. But the company will extend its offer to these high quality crustaceans over time.
At the moment the focus is on shrimp. The company's initial tests have proven successful, and the company estimates it can produce one kilogram of shrimp meat for about $ 5,000.
Although that sounds expensive, it is still much less than many of the laboratory-grown meat companies expect to produce their spare beef.
"We are still relatively low compared to the other meat companies that still have hundreds of thousands of dollars," says Ling.
The company wants to launch its first product market in the next three to five years and will first address the Asia-Pacific consumer.
This means first selling in the home market Singapore and expanding to Hong Kong, India and finally to Australia.