Google’s not exactly known as a company that likes to be left behind when it comes to either technology or planet-changing initiatives aimed at improving life for people around the world.
In that vein, the search giant is entertaining a bold step: considering replacing the shrimp served in its famously high-end cafeteria with a type of specially-engineered red algae designed to look and, crucially, taste the same as regular shrimp — but without any of the environmental downside that accompany it.
The foodstuff is the product of San Francisco biotech startup New Wave Foods — founded by a materials scientist and marine conservation expert — which aims to eliminate overfishing, bycatch, water pollution and an animal death toll in the trillions by convincing us that the same foods can be engineered using plant-based ingredients.
“The result is so convincing, and so much more sustainable, Google’s chef will be replacing animal shrimp with it as soon as production can scale,” New Wave notes in a new press release, celebrating a round of venture funding. (And, for the record, yes — that is the real shrimp substitute in the picture at the top of the page!)
Shrimp is the United States’ most popular seafood, representing more than a quarter of the four billion pounds of fish and shellfish eaten by Americans each year. However, for every pound of shrimp caught, up to 15 pounds of other animals — including endangered dolphins, turtles, and sharks — reportedly die. It is here that New Wave Foods hopes it will be able to make a big difference: by manufacturing the world’s first sustainable “shrimp” and having it catch on with influence makers like Google.
“We’ve been able to visit Google twice so far and [had our food] served in their cafeteria,” New Wave Foods co-founder and CEO Dominique Barnes tells Digital Trends. “At the moment we’re making everything in small batches because we’re kind of an artisanal company. But to meet the kind of quantity they would like to order we need to focus on scaling our production. Right now that’s our main focus.”
Google’s not the only potential client New Wave has attracted, either. “We’ve had other customers, ranging from a local kosher sushi catering company to a chef using our products in his pop-up [eatery],” Barnes says. “It’s been really exciting: we’ve been able to scale the product from lab space to kitchen space. Now we’re at the point where we’re looking to take the next step and find manufacturers to scale even further.”
Who knows? With some of the biggest names in tech leading the sustainable bio-engineered food charge, we could all be eating red algae “seafood” before long.
Just so long as this doesn’t end up like the plot of Soylent Green, consider us happy!