Test-Tube Seafood Gives 'Shrimp Cocktail' New Meaning

Burgers aren’t the only things getting the Frankenfood treatment.

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When it comes to lab-grown, animal-free meat, beef is what's making waves. Over the past few years, a lot of research has gone into making faux burgers tastier, bloodier, and cheaper. But perhaps the time is ripe for simulating other types of meat.

New Wave Foods is a biotech startup angling for a different sort of meat substitute: lab-grown faux shrimp, using protein extracted from algae. The company’s aim is to eventually create sustainable substitutes for high-demand seafood commodities, such as shark fin, scallops, and tuna.

Shrimp is a logical first choice, because according to data from the National Marine Fisheries Service, it is the most consumed seafood in America.

New Wave got its start thanks to a $250,000 grant from IndieBio, a company that funds science startups, projects, and other endeavors. Companies caught in the latest wave of funding have an opportunity to showcase their first products in February next year. This means the world could have its first taste of test-tube shrimp very soon.

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So how far along is the project? New Wave is understandably secretive about its progress, considering how close demo day is, but the three-person team says it has already successfully duplicated the flavor of shrimp. Capturing the texture of the little sea bugs is the next big hurdle, but details on how they plan to achieve it are scarce.

If lab-grown shrimp and other faux seafoods catch on, it could be a big relief to the world’s dwindling seafood supply. However, much of that success will ride on how well the fake stuff simulates the real deal. Will your next scampi feature faux shrimp, or will this just become another imitation crab meat?

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