GreenTech: Sustainable Seafood

Are you sticking to your New Year’s resolutions? If you’re anything like most Americans, those are often going to include a commitment to eat better (we did just feast for the holidays, after all). For a lot of people, that means incorporating more plant-based foods into the ole diet, or turning to plant-based foods altogether… including even giving up seafood.

The thought used to make us a little sad… we sure do like fish sandwiches, but then we found out that some nice folks in R&D have created plant-based seafood. We were intrigued, so we did a little digging. Turns out, we don’t have to give up tuna-fish salad (thank goodness) or sushi at all. Not only does plant-based “tuna” exist, but so does plant-based sushi, crab cakes, fish fillets, and a whole bunch of others.

Not quite ready to give up your buttery, crispy king crab legs just yet? No worries, sustainable seafood doesn’t have to be code for plant based. Sustainable seafood is growing in popularity, and for lots of people not ready to give up the “real thing”, it’s more about how we farm, and less about what we farm. Let’s take a minute to look at exactly what sustainable seafood is.

When you hear the term “sustainable seafood” all that’s really being said is, according to law, certain criteria must be met to call the seafood in question “sustainable”. These criteria include fishery management plans that consider social and economic outcomes, prevent overfishing, rebuild depleted stocks, minimize harm to species around that which is being farmed, and that identifies and conserves essential fish habitats. See, no plant-based concoction necessary to be sustainable.

Good Fish, Bad Fish

The good news is, the U.S. is already recognized as a global leader in this space, since our fisheries are scientifically monitored, regionally managed, and legally enforced under a host of national standards of sustainability. The bad news… while that’s true (and bravo to us) we still produce a pretty small chunk of the overall seafood available and rely somewhat heavily on imports for seafood sources of protein. This means it’s imperative that we beef up our aquaculture industry.

To see what sustainable seafood leaders of today look like, we’ll point you to companies like Mowi, where they specialize in sustainable salmon. The company is pretty big, fulfilling a fifth of global demand for farm-raised Atlantic salmon. Their preferred approach to ensuring their rigid sustainability standards are adhered to is to wield full internal control of genetics, feed, farming operations, harvesting, processing, logistics, sales, and marketing.

With more and more consumers demanding full traceability… mainly to ensure businesses aren’t just paying lip service to their sustainability goals, Mowi just up and decided to take matters into their own hands. This level of deliberate control over the value chain ensures costs stay stable, and quality and efficiency are maintained. This allows them to be ambitious enough to set and maintain high sustainability goals for themselves.

It made us wonder… what’s the next possible iteration of seafood? So, we set off to find out, and we came across printed seafood. Apparently, it’s already in the works, as we found a few little guys firing up new companies in the space that focus on what they are calling 3D bio-print structured, cultivated fish products. The players involved specifically want to scale sustainable alternatives to conventionally farmed and fished foods.

From what we’ve read, those leading the way in this space are playing with things like making 3D-printed, structured eel and grouper products that use bio-printing tech along with bio-inks that mimic the texture of a cooked-up version of the real thing. These founders and early adopters are hoping that these experiments will eventually lead to healthier food that isn’t harmful to create and consume.

Coming To A Table Near You

A few years ago, Singapore became the first nation to approve cultivated meat, and they have a working plan toward food security. Some of the things we’ve addressed in this article fall under what’s called cellular agriculture, where we build our food, and it’s part of what Singapore is work on… but, what if I told you the U.S. is as well? Yup, it’s true.

Not that long ago, the White House announced fresh support for this type of possible sustainable food source, highlighting a commitment to putting a stop to hunger for good, all while doing so sustainably. This is a trend we’re seeing, so it could be that what’s on the menu, very soon, will be something sustainable, and maybe built by a printer. Come back next week, we’ll have more from the cutting edge of green tech.