American start-up Pearlita has opened their new research facility in Raleigh, North Carolina, this week to create the first ever cultivated oysters.
The opening follows a recent fundraising, where the company received support from Sustainable Food Ventures and part of Big Idea Ventures’ New Protein Fund (which is estimated to be around around $50M.)
Founded by Nikita Michelsen CEO, and Joey Peters, a marine scientist and PhD candidate, Pearlita claims to be the first company worldwide to attempt to recreate molluscs like oysters and abalone using cell-based culture.
While creating lab-grown alternatives to fish has been a popular area of interest for a number of start-ups, such as Wildtype, who are striving to create a sushi-grade salmon cultivated from fish cells, molluscs haven’t yet been on anyone’s radar in the foodtech sector.
Through their cell-based alternative to oysters, Pearlita aims to reduce the negative impact that seafood harvesting has on the wild mollusc population.
By creating their cultivated molluscs in a clean, safe and regularly monitored environment, the company also hopes to completely eliminate the risk of contamination in their oysters. Oysters are often breeding grounds for bacteria, and can be contaminated with pollutants and metals like lead.
Stephanie Michelsen, advisor to Pearlita Foods, said: “Pearlita is going to deliver something very unique. By utilizing novel cellular agriculture, they will make one of the highest premium proteins accessible to all. I am very thrilled that the triangle will be home to yet another great cell-based company.”