Chicago entrepreneurs create seafood alternative that tastes, looks like fish but is a fungus

Two female Chicago entrepreneurs have created a seafood alternative that tastes and looks like fish, but is a fungus.

"Any chef can bring it into their kitchen and put it in a sushi roll or even the center of a plate and they can do anything with it," said Aqua Cultured Foods co-founder Anne Palermo.

She joined her counterpart, Brittany Chibe, to create the patent-pending idea.

"Just a really new and unique way of growing a mushroom in a way that allows it to grow more protein and absorb more water," said Palermo.

Right now, the product is growing in a light and humidity controlled tent in a River North loft. It takes about two weeks for each batch of the product to be complete, but the co-founders hope to shorten that timeframe.

Unlike alternative seafood products that are already on the market, this process uses fermentation.

Chibe became driven to change the seafood industry when she saw the human impact on our oceans first-hand while scuba diving.

"Right now, about 90 percent of our oceans are being overfished and so there's just not enough supply for this growing demand," said Chibe.

"When you take into account another two billion people are going to be born on the Earth in the next 30 years, current methods of agriculture and animal husbandry cannot sustain that kind of demand on our food system," said Palermo.


The product is odorless and tasteless, yet mimics the texture of a variety of fish and shellfish.

"All this is allowing us to create something with a chewier texture like a calamari or a more tender fin fish, like a cod or a snapper or a tuna," said Palermo.

It’s vegan, non-GMO, kosher, allergen free and can be grown anywhere in the world.

The end product is flavored using plant-based scents or breading and seasoning.

Aqua Cultured Foods hopes to have their product on store shelves by next year. They plan to price it no more than you’d typically pay for seafood.