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Bluu Seafood reaches essential milestone with fish cells growing in suspension

December 19, 2022

Bluu Seafood, a European cultivated fish company, has successfully adapted its proprietary fish cell lines to growth in suspension without the use of microcarriers or other scaffolds. This is a crucial step that will enable fish cell production in large scale stirred-tank bioreactors.

Establishment of cell suspensions is the latest milestone in a series of R&D breakthroughs that include development of GMO-free immortalized cell-lines and of high-performance growth media without Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS). Together, these achievements put the young German food tech company in a great position in the race to industrial-scale seafood production. The required process optimization and scale-up work will take place in Bluu’s new location currently being built in Hamburg, Germany. The facility will include a pilot plant, state-of-the art R&D labs and offices.

“This important achievement allows us to adhere to our ambitious research & development timelines,” said Dr Sebastian Rakers, CEO. “We are on track to kick off pilot production in Hamburg in 2023 and will enter the first phase of the commercialization of our products as planned.”

In general, cell suspensions are the best system for production of animal cells at a truly large scale. Therefore, establishing cell suspensions is an important goal for every company in the cultivated food space. However, it has proven to be extremely difficult to implement such a system for mammalian cells as well as for fish cells.

Therefore, many companies either apply genetic engineering technologies or use Embryonic Stem Cells (ESC) or Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs).

The German company’s GMO-free approach is based on the generation of small aggregates of cells called spheroids. In these spheroids cells adhere to each other and grow protected while being stirred in the bioreactor.

Under normal conditions, these spheroids would simply continue to grow into large spheres. Cells in the center would then start dying because nutrients cannot reach the inner layers. “But our bioprocess development team has developed a process that keeps the spheroids below a certain size while maintaining cell proliferation. Thus, the new method involving specific adjustments of growth media composition and bio-processing parameters allows continuous cell production in suspension,” added Dr Duong T. Nguyen, Bluu’s Director of Research and Bioprocess Innovation.

As no microcarriers or other scaffold materials are used, cells can be harvested and processed without any further treatments. Additional materials add complexity and can influence the taste, texture, and color of the final product. The lack of these gives Bluu maximum flexibility in the downstream use of the cells.

Growing seafood products from cells is a promising solution to relieve the harvesting pressure on our maritime ecosystems, which are further being depleted as seafood consumption skyrockets: while over 90% of our oceans are either overfished or fished to a maximum sustainable level (FAO 2020), seafood sales, which already amount to more than US$500 billion globally, are projected to reach US$1 trillion by 2035.

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