Maruha Nichiro to work with Umami Bioworks on developing cultivated seafood in Japan

Photo: Maruha Nichiro

Umami Bioworks (formerly Umami Meats), a Singapore-headquartered company developing the development and manufacturing system for producing cultivated seafood, has announced a collaboration with Japan’s largest fishing company, Maruha Nichiro. This is the first time a Japanese seafood company has chosen to invest in and collaborate with a foreign cell-cultivated seafood company.

While the demand for seafood has been growing worldwide, supply shortages are becoming a huge risk due to factors like overfishing and marine pollution. These challenges have led to decreasing wild-catch volumes, as well as health concerns around microplastics and heavy chemicals in seafood. In particular, Japan’s self-sufficiency rate for seafood remains at a low level of 55%, while the domestic wild-catch volumes have decreased approximately 65% over the last 30 years. This poses great risks not only to consumers, but also to the Japanese seafood industry, fishermen, and the overall economy.

Under such circumstances, cultivated products have attracted worldwide attention, with global investment in cultivated products reaching $2.8 billion in 2022. However, many Japanese companies are still lagging behind in participating actively in this industry. Maruha Nichiro has stepped up as a leader to ensure a sustainable supply of seafood worldwide, and to make its first formal investment in cellular agriculture with the aim of laying the foundation for Japan’s cell-cultivated seafood industry.

Umami Bioworks and Maruha Nichiro will be working to build the infrastructure of Japan’s cultivated seafood industry together in this partnership. The strategic investment from Maruha Nichiro will help accelerate Umami’s development progress. The two companies will also carry out a multi-faceted collaboration to accelerate the path to cultivated seafood commercialization, particularly in novel ETP (endangered, threatened and protected) species that have global relevance.

With this investment, Umami Bioworks will be able to expedite their long-term plan of building a research and commercial team in Japan. In turn, Maruha Nichiro will have a third method of sustainable production, other than fishing and aquaculture, for increasingly scarce seafood species.

By establishing a production pipeline of cell-cultivated products for the Japanese market, both companies will develop a foundation for cell-cultivated in Japan and provide the market with a sustainable and stable supply of locally produced seafood.

Mihir Pershad, CEO of Umami Bioworks, said: “Our seminal partnership with Maruha Nichiro, a global leader in crafting beloved food products, is a pivotal step in achieving our mission of addressing the challenge of feeding a growing global population while minimizing environmental impact. We have the development and production technology, but we require experienced partners with global reach that can help us manufacture and deliver cultivated products to consumers.

“Through collaborations with industry leaders like Maruha Nichiro, we can leverage our technology expertise to support co-development of delicious, nutritious, and appealing consumer products that secure a healthier and more sustainable food future for the world.”

Jim Cornall is editor of Future Food Today and publisher at Ayr Coastal Media. He is an award-winning writer, editor, photographer, broadcaster, designer and author. Contact Jim here.