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Plant-based seafood startup ISH taps new wave of funding to commercialize gas pipelines • TechCrunch

A heart attack three years ago was a wake-up call for Bernard David, founder and CEO of ISH. After declaring that she would only eat plants for the rest of her life, she found that the diet eventually made her “crave those old animals that I used to eat.”

Instead of sticking to these recommendations, David went looking for a plant-based company to invest in. Unable to find exactly what he wanted, he founded the company ISH around a central pillar of sustainability and health. ISH is Innovative, Sustainable and Healthy.

ISH started with plant-based seafood because two-thirds of seafood is consumed outside the home, according to David. Additionally, the carbon footprint of shrimp production has been found to contribute four times more greenhouse gas emissions than beef.

The B Corp-certified company is doing something unique with its products, what David calls a “whole system approach,” examining every ingredient that goes into ISH’s food against the peer-reviewed scientific literature to ensure it’s nutritionally sound.

And, to bring its product as close as possible to traditional seafood, the company’s R&D identified more than 25 different textures. Its products are also made with natural ingredients, such as coconut and seaweed, to mimic the taste of shrimp and other seafood products, which remains a challenge for plant-based and meat brands to successfully match.

“We’re not creating what I call ‘Franken Foods’ or highly processed foods,” David told TechCrunch. “No one makes such a projection. For example, methyl cellulose is quite abundant in many plant-based foods. However, it is also an intestinal irritant and diuretic. We don’t think it makes sense to put such ingredients in the products.”

Today, the company announced more than $5 million in a seed round to accelerate the growth and development of its plant-based food product pipeline. The round was led by ACCELR8 with participation from Stray Dog Capital and a group of angel investors. To date, ISH has raised a total of $10 million.

The plant-based seafood market is growing as more startups come online with products and venture capital. Plantish is one that falls into this category, nabbing $12 million last year to develop plant-based salmon fillets. Lisa Feria, CEO of Stray Dog Capital, said in a statement that plant-based seafood is poised to reach $500 million in sales, and the market value will reach $1.6 trillion over the next 10 years.

ISH launched Shrimpish in early 2022 and is already generating revenue, although David declined to go into specifics. David intends the new capital to support the commercialization of the company’s current products and a strong product portfolio of more than 25 products, including salmon, cod, crab and lobster alternatives, that will have the same taste and texture as their conventional food counterparts. A plant-based scallop product is also coming, he said.

ISH will also pursue future collaborations. The company already has a partnership with seafood producer Thai Union, which distributes ISH’s products to restaurants, colleges and universities across the country and in Europe. David believes this gives the company an edge.

“There is a high cost of failure with seafood,” he added. “People get nervous about how to do it, but the chefs know how to make products and meals with seafood.”

David then said that ISH is working on market development, especially in Europe. The company is also receiving inquiries from Asia.

“With manufacturing very efficient and profitable, we have to make sure we have a positive gross margin target,” he said. “We also need to make sure we have a very strong pipeline – we don’t want to come off as a one-trick pony.”