Food tech startup Aqua Cultured Foods announced it has closed an oversubscribed pre-seed funding round of $2.1 million, a high-water mark in the category of seafood alternatives, and one of the largest pre-seed rounds for companies using fermentation for alt-proteins. 

Investors include Supply Change Capital, Aera VC, Sustainable Food Ventures, Hanfield Venture Partners, Lifely VC, Conscience VC, Kingfisher Capital, Big Idea Ventures, and Gonzalo Ramirez Martiarena, former CEO of Louis Dreyfus Company and founder/CEO of Swiss Pampa. 

Funding will be used to accelerate research and development to enable commercialization of its whole-muscle cut, sushi-quality filets of tuna and whitefish, popcorn shrimp, calamari, and scallop alternatives from its novel protein fermentation technology. Aqua’s team is focusing on adjusting production conditions and inputs to achieve different textures, shapes, and nutritional values, as well as flavoring techniques. 

Aqua has also expanded its core team with the appointment of Bob Schultz as lead scientist. Schultz joins the company from Simulate, an early-stage biotechnology company, where he was lead food engineer and product lead for the Nuggs plant-based chicken nugget, the fastest-growing alternative chicken nugget on the planet. Schultz holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry and a master’s in gastronomic sciences. 

Johnny Carino, an executive chef noted for developing new concepts and opening new restaurants including his eponymous Carino’s Italian restaurants -- a chain that once numbered 170 locations -- has joined Aqua as its head of culinary innovation.

Aqua’s microbial fermentation methods do not use any animal inputs, genetic altering or modification and can therefore be marketed as non-GMO. Per serving, its products will contain 18-20g of protein, 10-12g of fiber and no sodium, saturated fat or cholesterol, and Omega-3s. These nutritional values are similar to cod, which contains 18 grams of protein, 0.7 grams of fat, nearly 43 mg cholesterol, 54 mg of sodium, and no fiber. 

Aqua is currently building its infrastructure and scaling production to release products in 2022.