Japan’s leading fishing company, Maruha Nichiro, has unveiled a strategic investment and collaborative partnership with Singapore-based Umami Bioworks, formerly known as Umami Meats to make 3D printed seafood. The primary objective of this collaboration is to jointly develop and commercialize cell-cultivated seafood, not only in Japan but also in potential global markets. This partnership represents a milestone, as it marks the first time a Japanese seafood company has ventured into a collaborative effort with a foreign entity specializing in cellular agriculture for seafood production. Additionally, Umami is poised to revolutionize the seafood industry further by exploring the realm of 3D Printed seafood products.
As part of this groundbreaking collaboration, Maruha Nichiro will gain access to Umami’s advanced cell cultivation development and manufacturing platform. This access will be instrumental in advancing the development and commercialization of cultivated 3D printed seafood production in Japan and beyond. The partnership includes Maruha Nichiro’s strategic investment in Umami and encompasses comprehensive research collaboration, aimed at expediting the journey toward the commercialization of cultivated seafood in Japan and globally.
Maruha Nichiro acknowledges Umami Bioworks’ significant achievements in developing prototypes of cell-cultivated seafood products through their proprietary technology. Umami has actively participated in exhibitions and tasting events to raise awareness about cell-cultivated 3D printed seafood. For Maruha Nichiro, nurturing consumer understanding is as vital as advancing the technology itself, as they collectively strive to create a new market in the realm of cellular agriculture.
Addressing Challenges in Japan’s 3D Printed Seafood Industry
This collaboration is critical for Japan’s seafood industry and global marine ecosystems. Over the past three decades, Japan’s domestic wild-catch volumes have witnessed a substantial decline of approximately 65%, leading to a worrisome decrease in its seafood self-sufficiency rate, which now stands at a concerning 55%. The industry faces formidable challenges on a global scale, including overfishing, marine pollution, microplastics, and the introduction of harmful chemicals, posing significant risks to consumers, fishermen, and Japan’s economy.
Umami recognizes Japan as a pivotal market for cultivated 3D printed seafood, given its status as the world’s third-largest seafood market and the country’s deep-rooted culture of seafood consumption. According to the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, in 2021, the average Japanese citizen consumed a remarkable 23.6 kg of fish and seafood, ranking Japan among the top five globally.
Umami’s strategic approach involves engaging with key stakeholders in the seafood industry, including producers, wholesalers, and traders at Toyosu, the world’s premier wholesale fish and seafood market. By collaborating with these industry pillars, Umami seeks to comprehend and address the unique challenges and requirements of the Japanese market while simultaneously setting a global standard for quality, flavor, and environmental responsibility.
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Towards Sustainable Seafood Production: A Global Imperative
In an era where sustainability is paramount, cell-cultivated seafood emerges as a viable and sustainable alternative. The global investment in cellular agriculture reached a substantial $2.8 billion in 2022. Through its collaboration with Umami, Maruha Nichiro aims to establish Japan’s presence in this burgeoning niche market. Maruha Nichiro’s investment commitments will play a pivotal role in expediting Umami’s development efforts, helping build the essential infrastructure required for the commercial production of cell-cultivated seafood within Japan.
Both companies are committed to pursuing multiple strategies to raise endangered fish species. Maruha Nichiro’s investment will facilitate Umami’s plans to establish a research and business team in Japan, further driving innovation in 3D printed seafood production. Umami’s automated system for growing seafood without the need for fishing helps mitigate issues like ocean pollution, mercury contamination, and microplastics. This collaboration aims to offer consumers delectable, healthy, and environmentally friendly seafood choices.
Umami’s Vision Beyond Cultivated 3D Seafood
Beyond cell-cultivated seafood, Umami is making strides in another groundbreaking field: 3D printed seafood. Collaborating with Steakholder Foods (formerly MeaTech 3D), Umami declared its intention to produce 3D printed seafood, with a primary focus on Japanese eel, red snapper, and yellowfin tuna. In January 2023, Umami secured a $1 million grant from the Singapore Israel Industrial R&D Foundation to develop 3D printed eel and grouper products collaboratively.
Umami’s multifaceted approach includes partnerships with major fishing companies like Maruha Nichiro, expansion into the pet food market, and pioneering ventures in 3D printing. Their overarching goal is to address the pressing challenge of seafood sustainability by offering seafood products free from harmful substances and the threat of extinction. Through these concerted efforts, Umami and its partners are meeting consumer needs and contributing to a more sustainable and healthier future for our planet.
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