Edible Innovation: Re-Making the Future of Fishmeal

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Edible Innovation: Re-Making the Future of Fishmeal

From Singapore to the USA and all around Europe, Edible Innovations profiles food makers that engage in improving the global food system at every stage, from production to distribution to eating and shopping. Join us as we explore the main trends in the industry from a maker perspective. Chiara Cecchini of Future Food Institute — an ecosystem with a strong educational core that promotes food innovation as a key tool to tackle the great challenges of the future — introduces you to the faces, stories, and experiences of food makers around the globe. 

In recent years fisheries have turned to aquaculture—the farming of fish, crustaceans, and other aquatic organisms—to feed the ever growing demand for seafood. Fish are 6 times more efficient at converting feed than cattle, so it makes sense why in the call for sustainable protein, the global aquaculture market is booming. However, have we ever stopped to think about what all these farmed fish are eating, and where it’s coming from? Currently, one-third of all wild fish harvested is turned into fishmeal (aquaculture feed). The feed often accounts for up to 60% of the production cost of farmed fish, and with the growing demand for seafood, this source of fishmeal is highly unsustainable.

Enter NovoNutrients, a group of food makers making unwanted carbon dioxide emissions from heavy industry into sustainable, protein-rich fishmeal. The startup employs a natural fermentation process, similar to that of the yogurt or winemaking process. The fermentation feeds microbes that convert waste carbon into organic building blocks called chemoautotrophs. These powerful microbes can produce complex organic compounds like protein from simple, inorganic ingredients like carbon dioxide. They are also developing new microbes that produce particular nutrients, such as vitamins and probiotics, which are essential in producing high quality fishmeal. All the microbes are then harvested, dried, and made into a fish-free feed (F3) that is both high protein and full of fatty acids, probiotics, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The bioreactors used can create proteins and nutrients that closely match the mix of amino acids a fish would receive in the wild, contributing to healthier and better tasting fish.

The start-off took off under CEO Daniel Tze, a venture capitalist with years of experience in the aquaculture and microbial protein business. Before joining NovoNutrients, Tze co-founded Aquacopia Ventures, the world’s first dedicated aquaculture investment fund. So, we can say, he knows what he’s talking about! In 2016, he closed the fund and became the majority investor of NovoNutrients, because he passionately believed that the future of food lie in CO2. He led the team in the Fish 2.0 2017 Innovation Forum, in which 184 sustainable seafood ventures from around the world compete for a spot in the Top 8 Winners List. The start-up took first place in the Supply Chain Innovation Track, helping shed both a spotlight and major financial support for the food from CO2 company.

NovoNutrients is an example of innovators that are not only focused on doing less harm, but on doing better. The start-up wanted to see if they could not only tackle the question of overfishing, but also the issue of greenhouse gases, the number one source of climate change today. By capturing CO2 and converting it into a valuable feed product, the company is not only reducing the devastating effects of CO2 on the atmosphere, but also creating a closed loop system, turning waste carbon into up-cycled goods. In fact, many companies will even pay to have the gas captured!

The same process can be used to make feed for livestock and maybe in the future, even protein for synthetic meat for human consumption. But as for right now, the company is focused on aquaculture and restoring our oceans, one fish-free food pellet at a time!

Written with the precious support of Lisa Koga.



Chiara is fascinated by food as a means to impact bodies, minds, and environment. She has studied international business in three different countries, and is an alumni of the Food Innovation Program and US Director at the Future Food Institute.

Based in California, she is also a Research Scholar at Food Science and Technology at UC Davis, working on building the first comprehensive Internet of Food to enable food care through food systems semantics. She is a selected member of Barilla Center Food Nutrition Foundation, a Research Affiliate at Institute For The Future, Board Member at Maker Faire and selected member of the Global Shapers, a young global network of innovators promoted by the World Economic Forum.

She is passionate about social entrepreneurship and impact investing, and aims to leave her mark on society.

View more articles by Chiara Cecchini
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