Meet Anne Palermo, CEO at FoodTech Startup: Aqua Cultured Foods

Aqua Cultured Foods is a food tech startup using a novel and proprietary protein fermentation technology to create seafood alternatives.

We’ve developed whole-muscle cut, sushi-quality filets of tuna and whitefish, popcorn shrimp, calamari, and scallop alternatives. Our products are highly realistic in terms of taste, texture, appearance, and nutritional profile.


How did you come up with the idea for the company?

I had a career in finance before I transitioned into food tech. I launched my first CPG company and developed proprietary technology for a high-protein snack. I built it to national distribution and a multimillion-dollar run rate.

However, after learning more about the challenges of sustainably feeding a growing population, I wanted to solve a more pressing problem than snack foods. The seafood supply chain is responsible for some of the worst environmental damage of our time. Our oceans and coastal regions are more important for mitigating climate change, and ensuring a livable planet, than even rainforests.

Food tech today is focused on three primary areas: cell-cultured (“lab-grown”) meat, plant-based food development, and fermentation science. There were no other fermentation companies working on seafood alternatives, and no alt-seafood companies using fermentation.

This surprised me, because microbial fermentation is so versatile, it’s resource- and space-efficient, it’s scalable, and it results in a whole, unprocessed food. Unlike cell-cultured meat, fermentation is free of any animal inputs, genetic altering, or modification, so it can be marketed as non-GMO. And, unlike a lot of plant-based products, we don’t need starches, protein isolates, or sodium to deliver the familiar experience and taste.


How has the company evolved over the last couple of years?

We were founded in 2021, so we haven’t had a lot of time to evolve! However in the past year since launch, we have become known in the food-tech industry as both a technological and culinary leader. We raised the largest pre-seed funding round in alt-seafood to date.

We’ve had good early traction because of strategic partnerships and sales agreements, including with three of the largest foodservice suppliers in the U.S. (Unfortunately these cannot be disclosed yet.) We’ve been accepted into accelerator programs like Plug & Play Tech Center, Kickstart 2021, and Big Idea Ventures. We are a semifinalist for the XPRIZE Feed the Next Billion competition, a multi-year challenge awarding $15 million to teams that deliver sustainable alternative proteins that meet the emerging demand for meat – winners will be announced in 2023.

My cofounder Brittany Chibe and I are now recognized as experts in alt-seafood. I was even invited to speak at the international CES technology expo for the first-ever food tech event, and several other conferences on food tech and how the food system can meet the needs of a growing population sustainably.

What can we hope to see from Aqua Cultured Foods in the future?

We will be introducing products through chef and restaurant partners at the end of this year, and through distribution channels in 2023. It’s going to be a great year.