80% of live fish stocks have been exhausted, but our global appetite for seafood is increasing. If fishing continues at the current rate, we face the chance of an ocean devoid of fish and the end of entire ecosystems.
Enter, KaiTech by SeaSpire, a deep tech company, concerned about the stress on our marine ecosystems and looking to combat the problem through cutting-edge technology that produces bioprinted plant-based, edible scaffolds for seafood analogues.
“As the population grows, we are seeing more seafood demand, so we have to look for alternatives. Those alternatives have to be nutritionally equivalent (or better) and have realistic textures and flavours,” said Varun.
The team are driven by a desire to support marine ecosystems and utilise their technology to drive consumer interest in alternative seafoods. Varun sees a huge opportunity in this space, especially in large seafood-consuming areas like the Asia Pacific.
“We have a big job ahead of us, as does the entire alternative seafood industry, firstly of making consumers aware of what's on offer but also communicating that it's safe to eat and a sustainable option from a price perspective,” said Shantanu.
Knowing the big job ahead naturally means he has big ambitions. The goal is to be at the ‘left, right and centre’ of all aspects of the alternative seafood industry, which is estimated to be worth nearly $1.6 billion by the end of this decade.
“We want to leverage our technology to be the leaders in the whole muscle cut production part of the alternative seafood industry. We want to create a $500 million dollar company by the end of this decade.”
Varun has a small but dedicated team behind him to support these ambitions. Co-founder Shantanu Dhangar is a fellow food scientist based in India, where they are building their operation base and supply chains. They are joined by a small team of advisors who bring to the table a cumulative 20+ years of business experience to help them further their strategic conversations, particularly when it comes to commercialisation.
“Our team is lean right now, but we are lucky to work with some good teams at CRI’s here in New Zealand and are excited to expand our team once we get our foot into the commercial side of things.”
One of their biggest challenges has been in trying to validate the market with little data to back it up, particularly around consumer trends and appetites. It’s an ongoing challenge that they have to think outside the box to get around.
“Looking back, this is perhaps something we would have done differently. When we started, we focused heavily on the deep-tech side of the house with a ground-up approach. We perhaps should have gone about things the other way around from a consumer-led approach, but I think both have pros and cons, and it’s important to get the tech part of the equation right.” acknowledged Shantanu.
With plenty of challenges under their belt and ahead of them, Varun says that feelings of doubt and fear are a near-daily occurrence, but the key to overcoming them is having a sense of purpose.
“My advice to any aspiring entrepreneur is to make sure you have a purpose. Don’t just follow what everyone else is doing. The purpose is what helps you deal with the daily doses of doubt. For us, we believe in what we are doing, and we know we can do it.”
Find out more about Sprout Accelerator.