Why alternative seafood

GFI empowers innovators to create delicious, affordable plant-based, cultivated, and fermentation-derived proteins. We aim to make the sustainable choice the default choice. There is arguably no more urgent product category for this approach than seafood. 

Seafood poses unique challenges for innovators, and our Sustainable Seafood Initiative provides targeted research and support to accelerate this sector. Read on to learn what factors we believe will make alternative seafood successful.

Independence from population & geographical constraints

Alternative seafood doesn’t rely on wild population productivity or geographical considerations. Supply chains and raw materials for alternative proteins are significantly less constrained than conventional seafood supply chains, so plant-based and cultivated seafood can be produced consistently. 

Manufacturing facilities for plant-based and cultivated seafood don’t need to be located near sensitive, expensive, and overburdened coastal areas. Instead, they can be built where consumer demand is, creating good jobs anywhere.

Highly efficient inputs

We can make alternative seafood products from highly efficient protein sources, such as fungi, with the potential to use byproduct streams and residual biomass from other sources like feedstocks. Essentially, we can make more seafood with fewer natural resources and far less harm to our environment. 

Fewer health risks

Fish and shellfish are two of the eight most common food allergens, which cause more than 90% of food allergic reaction episodes in the U.S.

Additionally, some people limit seafood consumption because they are concerned about high levels of mercury and other toxins. The FDA advises those who are pregnant or breastfeeding to avoid certain species of fish completely.

Reduced loss in supply chain

Plant-based products have a longer shelf life and don’t need as much costly refrigerated transportation. They also provide an attractive opportunity for local production in landlocked areas. 

Further, the production processes for both plant-based and cultivated seafood are more controllable and predictable. This allows for better real-time response to demand and for much more customized end products that precisely meet consumer needs. We can produce valuable cuts, product formats, and species of seafood products without generating low-value byproduct waste.

These benefits create an opportunity for plant-based and cultivated seafood to provide a healthier, ocean-friendly, and ultimately less expensive alternatives to conventional seafood. 

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Resource

Action paper: An ocean of opportunity

This action paper explores alternative seafood’s role in creating a sustainable, secure, and just food system.

Plant-based and cultivated seafood research

GFI’s Sustainable Seafood Initiative is enabling high-impact research to address critical challenges facing the plant-based, cultivated, and fermentation-derived seafood sectors. These projects will greatly reduce the barrier to entry for new researchers and innovators.

Blue school of fish graphic, representing benefits of cultivated seafood

Aggregating seafood data

Explore our open-access tools for seafood data: the Phylogenetic Index of Seafood CharactEriStics (PISCES) and the Archetype Library for Alternative Seafood (ATLAS). These tools aggregate data characterizing the properties and impacts of conventionally-produced seafood in order to accelerate the development and commercialization of alternative seafood.

Characterization of seafood products

The research community urgently needs the parameters that define high-quality meat from a number of seafood-relevant species. A deep understanding of the molecular and structural signatures that define consumer experiences—like taste, aroma, and texture—is critical for developing alternative seafood products that replicate these sensory experiences. Nutritional, aesthetic, and processing qualities are also important for producing high-quality alternative seafood products. 

GFI has worked to compile existing research in a user-friendly format with a tool called PISCES. This tool contains available research for over 200 marine species, including cell lines, curated research papers, genome sequences, taxonomies, nutrition profiles, and greenhouse gas footprints. 

PISCES is integrated with our Archetype Library for Alternative Seafood (ATLAS) which presents data on an archetype-level to help users prioritize groups of species for alternative seafood based on environmental impact, human health, animal welfare, and market size. 

We plan to expand PISCES to include new research and systematically characterize the structure, mechanical properties, and aroma of several common seafood species. With increasing access to data and connections across data modalities, researchers and innovators can accelerate the development and widespread commercial adoption of plant-based and cultivated seafood. 

Learn more about our plans for this resource and contact us if you’re interested in supporting this work.


School of fish along a reef in the maldives, photo courtesy of sebastian pena lambarri via unsplash

Cell line repository

GFI is partnering with the reagents company Kerafast to establish a repository of cell lines relevant to cultivated meat and seafood. This repository will streamline the process of sharing cells for research between labs and/or companies, and cut down on duplication of effort. 

Easier access to validated cell lines brings us closer to the day when cultivated meat and seafood come to market. Learn how GFI is streamlining access to cell lines and funding the development of new lines.

Cell line development

Thanks to gifts from the philanthropic community, we are funding work at Mote Marine Laboratory on the development of embryonic lines from red drum, almaco jack, and whiteleg shrimp. At Tufts University, we have granted funds for the development of myosatellite lines from Atlantic salmon. We are also granting funds for a project on culture media optimization for finfish species at Virginia Tech.


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Join our research efforts

If you are a scientist interested in alternative seafood, we would love to explore ways to work together! Thanks to support from philanthropic partners, we may also be able to provide research funding, so if you have a great idea, please apply.


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Help shape the direction of our research

If you’ve ever thought, “I wish GFI were supporting research into…” and it had anything to do with seafood, we’d like to hear from you! 

The more our priorities can be shaped by the real challenges being faced by researchers and companies, the more of an impact we will have. Whether it’s a specific technical approach you’d like to explore or something more outside the box, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


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Join the GFIdeas Community

We’re in this together. GFIdeas is our community of innovators who are advancing a healthy, sustainable, and just food system. Join GFIdeas to amplify your impact in the global good food system. Learn from an international business network of entrepreneurs and investors as you launch a startup and meet collaborators. Join GFIdeas to propel scientific innovation and explore the frontier of food technology.

The GFIdeas Community features a Slack channel dedicated to seafood. If you’re interested in connecting with others in this space, we would love to hear from you!

Research ideas

We identify, prioritize, promote, and track the most promising solutions to accelerate the alternative protein industry. Tap into our solutions work to discover ideas for research projects, find inspiration for new commercial ventures and products, and explore ecosystem-level interventions to support the industry as a whole. 

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  • Icon fermentation Fermentation
  • Icon plant based Plant-Based

Decision matrix for seafood target species selection

Creating an online, open-access decision matrix tool that ranks popular seafood-relevant species against each other based on several criteria such as market size, per-unit price, sustainability of conventional production practices,…

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Establishment of cell line repositories and standardized isolation protocols

Development of humanely-sourced and thoroughly documented and characterized cell lines from a variety of common food species—together with a mechanism for licensing and distributing these lines to researchers and companies—will…

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Fat uptake & biosynthesis in cultivated meat cells

Determining which lipids muscle and fat cells are capable of producing and absorbing directly from cell culture media.

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“Rainbow roll 2.0” as a showcase product for cultivated seafood

Thin sheets of cultivated fish for layering on the outside of maki rolls and other sushi products could be an attractive market-entry commercial product. Producing thin sheets of tissue is…

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Connect with our experts

View all experts

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Jen Lamy

SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD INITIATIVE MANAGER

Jen Lamy manages GFI’s cross-programmatic Sustainable Seafood Initiative to ensure that it proceeds strategically and with the input and involvement of key stakeholders.

Areas of expertise: alternative seafood, environmental policy, sustainable food systems, and strategic planning.

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Claire Bomkamp, Ph.D.

SENIOR SCIENTIST — CULTIVATED SEAFOOD SPECIALIZATION

Claire Bomkamp is focused on cultivated seafood and driving forward GFI’s Sustainable Seafood Initiative.

Areas of expertise: the science and technology of cultivated seafood, cultivated seafood startups, research, and university programs, science communication, fish puns.

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Marika Azoff

CORPORATE ENGAGEMENT SEAFOOD SPECIALIST

Marika leads GFI’s Sustainable Seafood Initiative work with startups, investors, conventional seafood companies and other key players in order to increase investment in and production and sale of alternative seafood products.

Areas of expertise: conservation, marine ecosystems, nonprofits, strategic partnerships.

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Emily Hennessee

POLICY ASSOCIATE

Emily Hennessee works on legislative and regulatory efforts related to alternative proteins and represents GFI as Innovation Lead for Action Track #2 of the United Nations Food Systems Summit.

Areas of expertise: public health, food systems, sustainability, nonprofits.

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Liz Specht, Ph.D.

DIRECTOR OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Liz Specht oversees GFI’s Science and Technology department to build a roadmap for accelerating alternative protein research while empowering scientists to execute on this vision.

Areas of expertise: plant-based meat, fermentation, technical analyses, forecasting and modeling, synthetic biology, public speaking.

Featured resources

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Aggregating data for alternative seafood

Use our open-access databases to explore how scientific taxonomies and evolutionary relationships map onto culinary categories of seafood.

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Introducing PISCES, a new data navigation tool to inform alternative seafood development

There’s a lot of research on the cellular and molecular components needed to match conventional seafood’s taste, texture, and aroma. We’ve put together a resource to help alternative seafood researchers…

Crashing waves from above

Action paper: An ocean of opportunity

This action paper explores alternative seafood’s role in creating a sustainable, secure, and just food system.

A shopper compares plant-based meat products in a supermarket aisle

Company Database

Explore the landscape of plant-based, cultivated, and fermentation companies including consumer brands, manufacturers, and ingredients companies.

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Investor directory

Find more than 200 investors interested in funding alternative protein companies in GFI’s investor directory.

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Research grants

Learn about cutting-edge alternative protein research funded by GFI. Find funding opportunities for your own research.

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Our collaborators

GFI’s Sustainable Seafood Initiative is a proud Mission Blue Partner. Led by legendary oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, Mission Blue works to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas. GFI Director of Science & Technology Liz Specht sat down with Dr. Earle for a fireside chat to discuss the unique challenges and opportunities for plant-based and cultivated seafood.

Recommended viewing

Webinar: Opportunities in Alternative Seafood | Arlin Wasserman, founder and managing director of Changing Tastes, a leading consultancy on food, hospitality, and sustainability, joins GFI sustainable seafood initiative manager Jen Lamy to discuss opportunities in alternative seafood.
Webinar: The Current Landscape of Plant-Based and Cultivated Seafood Innovation | GFI senior scientist Claire Bomkamp and panelists from Mote Marine Laboratory, the University of Calgary, Shiok Meats, BlueNalu, and Bon Appetit Management Company discuss new approaches to producing high-quality seafood sustainably.
Global demand for seafood is projected to grow, yet over 90% of wild fisheries are already being fished at maximum capacity, are classified as overfished, or have already collapsed. Dr. Liz Specht and legendary oceanographer Sylvia Earle explore the tragic impact of overfishing and the unique opportunities and challenges for plant-based and clean meat seafood products.

The latest in sustainable seafood

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GFI submits recommendations to FDA for cultivated seafood labeling regulation

Sensible and carefully considered regulation of cultivated seafood will be essential to creating a sustainable, secure, and just food system.

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With public and private sector support, cultivated seafood can restore the health of our oceans

Support from governments, academia, and nonprofits will help ensure cultivated seafood reaches its full potential to sustainably meet the global demand for seafood and restore the health of our oceans.

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WSO’s Friend of the Sea certification matters for the plant-based seafood industry. Here’s why

The World Sustainability Organization, in partnership with GFI’s Sustainable Seafood Initiative, announced it will begin certifying plant-based seafood products under their Friend of the Sea certification program.

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GFI awards grant for crucial fish cell culture media research

GFI has awarded a two-year grant to a research project aimed at developing a high-quality, serum-free fish cell culture media—a critical step to bring cultivated seafood to market.

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U.S. plant-based meat sales growth accelerates despite Covid-19

U.S. sales data shows that plant-based meat sales have remained strong amid Covid-19, outperforming both its prior-year growth as well as animal-based meat’s growth rates.

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Introducing PISCES, a new data navigation tool to inform alternative seafood development

There’s a lot of research on the cellular and molecular components needed to match conventional seafood’s taste, texture, and aroma. We’ve put together a resource to help alternative seafood researchers…

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White House calls for investment in U.S. seafood. It should add alternatives to the mix

Public investment in alternative seafood has the potential to make America a leader in seafood production with vast positive impacts for the economy, workers, human health, and ocean sustainability.

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GFI’s Sustainable Seafood Initiative awards new grant for Atlantic salmon cell lines

Cultivated meat is poised to make our food system more sustainable, ethical, and delicious, but cell lines are a critical unmet need. That’s why GFI is funding research by Kyle…

Sign up for Turning the Tide

Turning the Tide is GFI’s quarterly newsletter for all things alternative seafood. In each edition, you will gain insight into cutting-edge scientific developments, new startups on the scene, the most relevant policy advances, groundbreaking investment activity, open-access resources from GFI and our partners, and much more. 

We will also be delivering a full menu of announcements with each edition, from upcoming events to funding opportunities.

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My passion for ocean conservation is what led me to support GFI’s Sustainable Seafood Initiative. Alternative seafood is a key solution to some of our ocean’s most pressing challenges, and GFI is accelerating the entire sector.”
Kathlyn Tan, Director, Rumah Group & Foundation
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Support our work

Our Sustainable Seafood Initiative and all of GFI’s research grants are made possible thanks to our global family of generous donors. Philanthropic support is vital to our mission. Connect with us today to discuss how you can help fuel this transformative work.