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Reducing pressure on our oceans with cell cultivated fish


Mon, 08/07/2023 - 12:00


How a startup with a keen appetite for environmental sustainability is using biotechnologies to reinvent fish.  

Commercial fishing operations are a massive threat to the health of our oceans. They contribute to a range of environmental challenges including overfishing, plastic pollution and bycatch. These environmental challenges, coupled with issues around seafood safety and contamination, endanger consumers everywhere.  

But what if there was a way to satisfy growing global demand for seafood without harming the planet or jeopardising climate goals? 

That’s the challenge Avant is trying to solve. From its laboratories in Hong Kong and Singapore, the startup is using patent-pending technology to produce thousands of kilograms of real fish muscle cells directly from the cells of a single fish.   

Avant’s fish cutlet. The company has launched samples of a variety of fish products including cultivated fish maw and fillets. Source credit: Avant

“Our products are not plant-based or genetically modified – they are real fish, just made without the animal,” explains co-founder and CEO Carrie Chan. “Instead, they’re made using safe and reliable biological processes, so they’re sustainable, nutritious – and super tasty!” 

Avant was one of the earliest movers in the cultivated fish meat space and is now blazing the trail for others in Asia to follow. So how does the process of growing fish in a laboratory work, exactly, and what potential does the startup have to disrupt the seafood industry? 

A leap into the unknown

Until just a few years ago, becoming a cultivated fish producer was the last thing on Chan’s mind. A successful architect, she completed her MBA at INSEAD in 2008 and was working her way up the corporate ladder in Hong Kong, managing substantial CAPEX projects for major clients. Her decision to switch tracks stemmed from a growing conviction that she wanted to devote more of her time to climate action. 

“As a committed vegan and environmental activist, I just grew increasingly concerned about the connection between our food consumption choices and the carbon footprint these leave behind,” she says. “Switching to an animal-free diet is one answer, but it’s a massive job to get people to adopt that view. I thought: our planet is running out of time. Isn’t there something more I can do?”