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[Korean Startup Interview] Cultivating the Future of Meat: SeaWith’s Innovative Algae-Based Approach

2023-12-13 5 min read


[Korean Startup Interview] Cultivating the Future of Meat: SeaWith’s Innovative Algae-Based Approach

Reading Time: 5 minutes

In the present day, there is a growing interest among the general population for safe and innovative food options. With meat consumption on the rise, there is a growing focus on finding alternative sources of protein. According to CFRA, a U.S. market research firm, the global alternative meat market is expected to reach 116 trillion won by 2030. To address this demand, numerous companies worldwide are actively involved in research, development, and food production.

In this context, SeaWith has introduced a groundbreaking approach to cultured meat production using algae engineering. SeaWith cultivates dense muscle tissue using algae and has developed a serum-free animal cell culture technology that eliminates the use of animal-derived materials by utilizing microalgae. This innovative process takes a bottom-up approach, using food-grade materials, making it a cost-effective method for commercialization.

SeaWith’s commitment to innovation and excellence is evident in its selection for the ‘Global Venture Incubation Program,’ a collaborative initiative by Daegu Creative Economy Innovation Center and Plug and Play Korea. This program has provided SeaWith with valuable insights, allowing them to review their entire business with dedicated mentors and showcase their technological capabilities to global teams.

Founded in 2019 and with a strong focus on global expansion, SeaWith is actively collaborating with various international teams. SeaWith’s CEO, Lee Hee-jae, is currently in the process of securing investment for mass production systems and shared, “We are gearing up to introduce our products to the global market. Our experts are diligently working on obtaining the necessary foreign permits and making preparations for international expansion, particularly through our participation in the PlugAndPlay program.”

What problem does SeaWith aim to address?

SeaWith aims to address the challenges of population growth, climate change, environmental pollution, and food shortages. By 2040, the global meat market is expected to reach $1.8 trillion, but our planet cannot sustain this level of consumption. Cultured meat is a promising solution, but there are gaps in technology to produce it at a reasonable cost.

How does SeaWith address this problem?

SeaWith uses sustainable, commercializable algae and microalgae materials to produce cultured meat. Unlike other cultured meat companies, SeaWith does not use animal-derived materials. This makes SeaWith’s cultured meat more ethical and affordable.

What are SeaWith’s technological advantages over competitors?

SeaWith has two key technological advantages over competitors. First, SeaWith uses microalgae to produce a serum-free animal cell culture medium. This medium is over 100 times cheaper than traditional mediums. Second, SeaWith has proprietary technology for scaffolds made from brown algae. These scaffolds allow SeaWith to culture cells several centimeters thick, which is essential for recreating the texture of meat.

What products does SeaWith offer?

SeaWith offers two products: cultured meat and serum-free culture medium. SeaWith’s cultured meat is still under development, but it is expected to be released to the market in 2025-2027. SeaWith’s serum-free culture medium is already available for purchase by other cultured meat companies.

Who are SeaWith’s target customers?

SeaWith’s target customers are those who traditionally consume meat, but who are also concerned about the environment and their health. SeaWith is currently focused on the Korean market, but it plans to expand globally in the future.

What is SeaWith’s business model?

SeaWith’s business model is to sell cultured meat directly to consumers (B2C) or to restaurants and other businesses (B2B2C). SeaWith is also considering selling its serum-free culture medium to other cultured meat companies (B2B).

What have been SeaWith’s achievements so far?

SeaWith is the first cultured meat company in Korea. It has secured an accumulated investment of 7 billion won and is planning to raise pre-Series B funding this year. SeaWith has also developed a cultivation process that can produce cultured meat at a price similar to conventional meat.

What are SeaWith’s competitive strengths?

SeaWith’s competitive strengths include its unique technology, its strong team, and its focus on the Korean market. SeaWith’s team is composed of experienced scientists and entrepreneurs who are passionate about cultured meat. SeaWith is also the first cultured meat company in Korea, which gives it a first-mover advantage.

Three compelling reasons to invest in SeaWith:

Firstly, SeaWith possesses highly practical technology for the commercialization of cultured meat. In a market where traditional meat is priced in the tens of thousands per kilogram, having the core technologies and strategic approaches to reduce costs is crucial, and SeaWith excels in this regard.

Secondly, our team is well-prepared for scaling up. We’re not merely an R&D company; we are actively gearing up for full-scale cultured meat production. Replacing even a fraction of the 3.5 billion tons of meat consumed annually demands a large-scale production system, and we’re already in the pilot stage of scaling up. Moreover, securing product sales approvals is a pivotal step, and SeaWith boasts the expertise and infrastructure needed for this.

Thirdly, the cultured meat market is not only an emerging one but a vast frontier that’s transforming how proteins and meats are consumed worldwide. While international companies are leading this industry, domestic teams often face challenges due to smaller capital raises compared to their technological capabilities. A significant injection of capital for scaling up is paramount for successful commercialization, and that’s precisely why your investment in SeaWith is so crucial.

As part of our global expansion efforts, we’re actively collaborating with numerous international teams. We’re gearing up for a global venture on all fronts, internally and externally. We’re diligently working to secure permissions not only in our domestic market but also from international authorities to make our products available worldwide. This includes specialized training and qualifications for our experts to ensure a seamless overseas expansion. Our participation in programs like PlugAndPlay aligns with our global readiness strategy.

What are the essential supports and challenges for Seawith’s global expansion?

The cultured meat industry requires significant investment in large-scale facilities. Overseas industry leaders are constructing facilities and swiftly acquiring mass production capabilities through investments ranging from hundreds of billions to two trillion won. In Korea, there’s considerable uncertainty regarding the activation of the cultured meat industry, and attracting substantial capital is comparatively challenging. Thus, it’s crucial for Seawith to urgently seek foreign investments and pursue overseas expansion.

How has participating in the Silicon Valley program aided your global expansion efforts?

The PNP Summit provided an opportunity to meet with experts, investors, and executives from various industries. This event facilitated not only investment opportunities but also extensive discussions about collaborations with major corporations.

Were there any specific achievements from the Silicon Valley program?

We had several meetings with investors and have scheduled follow-up discussions. Additionally, connections were established with major food and livestock corporations like Cargill and Ajinomoto, setting the stage for future collaborations and discussions on necessary initiatives.

[Korean Startup Interview]

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