Chua Yu Xiang Aaron
Co-Founder & CEO
The global startup ecosystem is transforming due to the changing dynamics, the growing horde of investing enthusiasts, and the overall regulatory atmosphere. With all these factors, the business scenario is undergoing a tremendous paradigm shift, which is in turn boosting the global economy. Leveraging all the support from governments and investors, the new-age entrepreneurs are all set to break the glass ceiling and make big differences through their businesses. They are galvanizing with remarkable solutions and exceptional qualities. Throwing light on such new-age start-up founders, we present to you the journey of Chua Yu Xiang Aaron, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Fisheroo.
Share your professional background. What is the underlying idea of Fisheroo?
I have always been intrigued by science and my journey in the space of science began at a very young age. The ability to explain the phenomenon of daily-life concepts amazed me. Today, I am a biologist by training. Before founding Fisheroo, I had the opportunity to work at Singapore's National Neuroscience Institute where I was utilizing drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) to model neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's.
It was in late 2020, we began to conceptualize Fisheroo to provide consumers with authentic and nutritious cultivated fish products through sustainable technology. Essentially, we cultivate fish from cells, replicating how fish meat is typically grown within the fish body but is now enabled by technology to be grown outside of the fish body in silo and all of which while ensuring the conditions necessary for growth are met.
What factors influenced you to establish the company?
During the covid pandemic, while I was introduced to the idea of being a pescatarian, I began to research the pros and cons of the diet. Over 150 million tones of seafood are consumed globally each year and yet, these seafood are laden with unseen contaminations ranging from methylmercury to microplastics. Besides, the practices within the industry to provide us with the seafood we have grown to love is far from being sustainable with ecologists projecting fishes to be eradicated in our ocean. Also, many consumers are not aware of the truth and being a consumer myself, I couldn't help but think of the negative impacts it brings not only to people but also to the oceans. To change all of this, Fisheroo seeks to redefine the norms of seafood production and envisions providing consumers with a sustainable alternative without compromising the quality of life, a solution to a problem. And beyond finding a solution to a problem, the opportunity that remained to be relatively untapped in alternative seafood further propagated us towards establishing Fisheroo.
What drives you as an entrepreneur? What keeps you going?
Being an entrepreneur is no easy feat, having a need to juggle different tasks and facing sleepless nights. But what really keeps me going this past year are three things:
The first of which would be Fisheroo’s mission and vision. Being guided by a reason is such an underrated thing because with purpose you now have a North Star and that creates direction, fulfilment, and satisfaction even when things aren’t going the way we hoped for because you know that you are still taking steps towards that purpose, nonetheless.
In addition to our purpose, a conversation I had with one of our early investors was a huge motivation for me. It was in August 2021 and as with any other days, I was nothing short of exhaustion, but it was until five words that changed everything. He said, 'if any, don’t give up!'. With just a simple sentence, I was reminded of the responsibility we hold as a team and the trust individuals have placed on us. This realization has been driving me even during our worst moments. Last but not least, the opportunity I have been given to look at things from a different perspective as an entrepreneur has me fired up every single morning. The opportunity to innovate, adapt things to new perspectives and presenting them to investors and consumers consistently pushes me to go above and beyond.
Elaborate about the technology framework built within the company.
At Fisheroo, we have a proprietary technology stack with three distinct layers. Firstly, the cells that serve as the foundation of the cultivation, second is the cell culture media, which serves as a nutrient pool for the cells, and third is the bioreactor which provides optimal environmental conditions to promote cell growth. The process goes like this: We take a sample of cells from fish, isolated cells are then fed with nutrients for growth, and enclosed within the bioreactor;and after 4–6 weeks, the meat will then be ready for consumption. We are confident that our stack of technology will enable the recreation of fish that we love while being scalable at low costs; which truly has been an unanswered question by the industry at large.
How are you encouraging your team to innovate?
Beyond technology, our framework of innovation is of greater credit and worth noting. Internally, we have fostered a 'to-try' mentality where no ideas are too crazy. Everyone and anyone is then given a specific timeframe which more often than not is determined by the individuals themselves to get to a proof-of concept. Honestly, not all of the ideas have worked out but the insights that we are able to get is nothing short of valuable which has really led us to improving existing ideas. This awesome flow of communication and ideation amongst team members has been really helpful in the development of our technology stack.
How do you ensure cultivated fish are nutritious?
Unlike conventional fishes, Fisheroo’s cells are not exposed to contaminants that are widely found in the ocean or aquaculture farms, allowing for the development of healthy fish meat. The fish cells that we cultivate are also provided with the necessary nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins, and more that would allow us to replicate the nutritional values of fishes grown in conventional aquaculture or found in the ocean.
Chua Yu Xiang Aaron, Co-Founder & CEO, Fisheroo
A biologist by training, passionately an entrepreneur but most importantly a great believer of enabling others to look at things from a different perspective.