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Thai Union Joins Investors in Cell-based Seafood Producer BlueNalu

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The Bangkok-headquartered Thai Union Group has invested in BlueNalu Inc. through its venture fund to back the San Diego, California-based startup company engaged in producing seafood products directly from fish cells. It has plans to introduce a wide variety of cell-based seafood items serving up conventional taste, texture, and nutritional profiles, including mahi mahi and bluefin tuna.

BlueNalu recently closed $60 million in debt financing from a number new and existing investors, among them Thai Union. This marks the largest financing to date in the cell-based seafood industry worldwide. The company previously completed a Series A round of $20 million in early 2020, and a Series Seed round of $4.5 million in early 2018.

Rage Capital led the $60 million convertible note financing, and other significant participants include Agronomics, Lewis & Clark AgriFood, McWin, and Siddhi Capital. In addition to Thai Union, other investors in this financing include Radicle Growth (by way of the Radicle Protein Challenge by Syngenta), Rich Products Corporation, AiiM Partners, Clear Current Capital, CPT Capital, Flat World Partners, KBW Ventures, Losa Group, OurCrowd, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and Stray Dog Ventures.

 BlueNalu’s whole-muscle, cell-based yellowtail prepared three ways.

The financing is intended to enable BlueNalu to achieve several significant milestones over the coming year, including opening a nearly 40,000-square-foot pilot production facility, completing FDA regulatory review for its first products, and initiating marketplace testing in a variety of foodservice establishments throughout the United States.

In business for more than 40 years, Thai Union is regarded as one of the world’s leading seafood producers and a major player in the frozen shrimp and shelf-stable tuna markets. Annual sales top US $ 4.1 billion, and its global workforce exceeds 44,000 people.

“We are an industry leader in innovation and sustainability, and cell-based seafood perfectly aligns with both of these goals,” said Thai Union President and CEO Thiraphong Chansiri. “BlueNalu and its experienced team is at the forefront of cell-based seafood technology, with strong process capabilities to scale-up seafood in a sustainable manner. We are excited to work with them and look forward to exploring collaboration opportunities.” 

Lou Cooperhouse, BlueNalu’s co-founder, president and chief executive officer, commented: “Thai Union’s investment represents an investment in the future of food and commitment to innovation. We look forward to exploring various ways to  complement their position as one of the largest seafood operators globally.”

Thai Union’s venture fund, launched in 2019 with an initial commitment of US $30 million, focuses its investments on three strategic areas: alternative protein, functional nutrition and new technologies along the food value chain. The company supports early-stage entrepreneurial companies that are active in these areas and will actively partners with them to accelerate development.

BlueNalu began in 2018 when its co-founders first met in Hawaii to discuss an opportunity to create an innovative company that will transform the global seafood industry.  As a noun, nalu most commonly refers to the waves and surf of the moana – the ocean. As a verb, it means meditate, ponder, contemplate. “Nalu it” is also street slang, for “go with the flow,” but be mindful at the same time