In an exciting new culinary adventure for “seafood” tech startup Aqua Cultured Foods (ACF), cruelty- and fish-free calamari fries soon will hit supermarket freezers ahead of schedule.

The fries were created via a new microbial fermentation technology, which uses fungi to “grow” protein, that gives them the distinctive texture, taste, look, and nutritional content of calamari, according to the company.  Aqua’s fermentation methods do not use any animal inputs, genetic altering or modification and can be marketed as non-GMO.

“Fermentation delivers a whole, unprocessed food that can be used as a one-to-one replacement in just about every place we see animal-based seafood,” said ACF CEO Anne Palermo.

The company turned to internationally renowned chef Johnny Carino to help perfect the company’s calamari formula.

“When the product arrived in its raw form, I became very eager to see what I could do with it,” he said. “The Aqua calamari delivered on every note that a product development chef aims for.”

There was “no learning curve,” as often happens when working with a new product or ingredient, Carino said.

“It looks and acts like calamari,” he said.

This new treat mirrors a heartening worldwide trend.  Sales of alt-seafood grew by 23 percent in 2020, fueled by increasing consumer awareness of the conventional seafood supply chain’s destructive impact on ocean ecosystems, human health, and the environment.

Fermented mycoproteins, created using fungi, offer real solutions to many of these problems. Mycoprotein is rich in fiber and essential amino acids while being low in sodium, sugar, cholesterol, and fat, and also can be produced efficiently, sustainably, and without the use of antibiotics.

“By taking the animal out of the system, the constant threat of contamination is removed, and the need for antibiotics in our food system is eliminated,” the World Economic Forum noted in a recent report.

The market for alt seafood also is “set to explode” in upcoming years, according to the vegan business magazine, Vegconomist. Analysts believe the global market for plant-based seafood could surge to a valuation of $1.3 billion by 2031.

Aqua’s calamari fries come in seasoned and breaded options and will be available in supermarkets later this year.

The company also is working on developing shrimp, scallops, and filets of animal-free tuna and whitefish, all with a realistic taste and texture.

fish-free calamari