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  • Writer's picturePhoebe Fraser

Israel’s Forsea unveils “world’s first” cell-based eel

Cultured seafood start-up Forsea has unveiled its first prototype of cell-based freshwater eel.

Forsea says it has successfully replicated the traditional Japanese unagi eel (Anguilla japonica), with the prototype mimicking its “tender, succulent texture and rich savoury flavour”.

The start-up worked with acclaimed chef Katsumi Kusumoto to create two traditional Japanese dishes – unagi kabayaki, marinated grilled eel over rice, and unagi nigiri, which is sushi rice that's topped with slices of eel.

The company has achieved a working proof-of-concept that embodies the sensory attributes of traditional eel meat and is now ready to enter the scale-up phase.

Through the collaboration, Forsea contributes its novel technology for creating cell-cultivated eel cuts, while Kusumoto contributes his culinary knowledge to refine the product to “perfection in texture and flavour”.

Kusumoto said: “Unagi is an enduring favourite in Japan. Its timeless appeal, however, is impacted by a growing awareness among the Japanese population of the need to take a more sustainable approach. It’s been a thrilling journey to join forces with emerging innovators and work together to deliver the traditional unagi indulgence with a clear eco-conscience.”

Roee Nir, CEO and co-founder of Forsea, added: “This milestone marks a major leap in our journey to deliver delicious cultured seafood products. Forsea is pioneering the fusion of traditional, high-quality Asian cuisine with groundbreaking technology to create the world’s first cultured unagi – one that will provide the consumer with a genuine seafood experience without putting further strain on aquatic life.”

Forsea’s proprietary method for its cell-based eel is unique in its application of organoid technology. This enables the creation of 3D microtissues composed of fat and muscle.

Forsea says that these microtissues spontaneously differentiate into edible cells, mimicking the natural process of cell formation. The cell lines self-organise into tissue structures without the need for scaffold support, simplifying the production process, and enhancing scalability.

The start-up expects the approach to overcome major industry challenges and, eventually, ease some of the supply bottlenecks for eel meat. The practice also promotes efficiency and cost-effectiveness as it decreases the reliance on growth factors.

Forsea projects that its cell-based eel product will be ready for commercial launch in 2025 as it seeks strategic partners in Japan – the largest consumer of freshwater eel – and across Asia. Europe and the US are also on its radar as rapidly developing markets.

Forsea was the winner of the ‘Startup Pitch Hour Prize’ at the Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Summit in Singapore in October last year.

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