Lab fish on frying pan: TN researchers develop cultivated meat of four varieties

In many countries across the world, there is an increasing demand for cultivated fish meat, which replicate the variety’s original flavour, texture, and nutritional qualities.
Red snapper
Image of red snapper fish used for representational purpose.(Photo | Facebook)

CHENNAI: Researchers from Tamil Nadu have found early success in bringing lab-grown fish meat to the plates of consumers, for the first time in the country. Using cells from popular varieties such as milkfish, grouper, red snapper and tilapia, a team from Sathyabama Institute of Science and Technology, has managed to develop lab-grown meat and is in process of applying for a patent for the same.

The Chennai-based private university has obtained an authentication certificate from National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources, an organisation working under the aegis of Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

In many countries across the world, there is an increasing demand for cultivated fish meat, which replicate the variety’s original flavour, texture, and nutritional qualities. As the wild fish population is on decline due to factors like overfishing, climate change and pollution, the lab-grown meat is seen as a viable alternative to reduce the stress on the biodiversity.

Singapore, Japan and France are some of the countries that are aggressively investing and promoting it, said Inbakandan D, professor and head of Centre for Ocean Research, Sathyabama University.

Hygiene is another reason for the increased interest in cultivated fish meat. Since it is grown in a sterile environment, there is no chance for the presence of parasites, heavy metals or microplastics.

Singapore firm to partner with Sathyabama university

Sheela Rani, director (Research), Sathyabama University, told TNIE, “Considering the initial success, Singapore-based Umami Bioworks has expressed willingness to partner with us and set-up a full-fledged facility at the campus to develop more cultures and push for commercial scale production.”

Kathick V, assistant professor (Research), Centre for Ocean Research, said, “What we have done is a technology demonstration. We managed to culture even the most difficult heart muscles of the fish which give the original texture.

The National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources authentication meant our lab-grown meat has no recombinant DNA. Now, we have to get statutory approvals from National Biodiversity Authority, Union environment ministry, and FSSAI. For commercial scale production, we also need huge investment for setting-up large bioreactors. But, it’s a promising start.”

Besides Sathyabama, the ICAR-Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) has also taken-up the task of developing lab-grown fish meat.

Initially, the institute will focus on developing cell-based meat of high-value marine fishes such as kingfish, pomfret, and seer fish. CMFRI has partnered with Neat Meatt Biotech, a start-up working on cultivating meat, in a public-private partnership.

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