Save da Sea closes seed financing, becomes the first investment of BDC’s Thrive Lab | BetaKit

Victoria-based foodtech startup Save da Sea has closed $650,000 CAD in seed financing as it looks to scale distribution of its plant-based seafood products.

This round, which closed in April, marks the first investment from Thrive Lab, the Business Development Bank of Canada’s (BDC) $100-million fund for women-led businesses. Thrive Lab invests in companies by creating a syndicate of co-investment partners, and in this deal, participated alongside Spring, What If Ventures, and York University’s YSpace. To date, Save da Sea has raised $1.6 million CAD.

Save da Sea claims to have seen significant traction in distribution for its plant-based seafood. Armed with new funding, the startup now plans to accelerate its expansion in the United States and grow its team.

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that 85 percent of marine fish stocks are either fully exploited or overfished. The marine fishing industry contributes significantly to carbon emissions, damages marine habitats, and generates substantial plastic waste.

Plant-based seafood is a growing market that replaces fish and shellfish, such as tuna, crab, and salmon, with fruit and vegetable ingredients. According to one global market-research report, the plant-based seafood market was valued at approximately $84 million in 2022 and is predicted to grow to $1.3 billion by 2030.

Founder and CEO Aki Kaltenbach started Save da Sea in 2019 after transitioning to a plant-based diet in 2018. She has a background in both the food and tech industries, having run a chain of Japanese restaurants in addition to working at Vancouver-based Hootsuite.

Save da Sea offers food products aimed at mimicking the flavour and texture of seafood. Its first product to market was a smoked salmon alternative made from carrots. The startup also offers a tuna salad made from jackfruit, vegan mayonnaise, and spices.

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In a statement, Save da Sea claimed that year-over-year, it saw a 63 percent increase in retailers and 64 percent increase in points of distribution. The startup’s products are now available in 500 retail stores across Canada, including Fortinos, Healthy Planet, Save-On Foods, Sobeys, and Whole Foods. Kaltenbach said this growth extends south of the border as well—the startup launched in the US last week at Market of Choice, a natural retail chain with 11 locations across the state of Oregon.

“Since launching, we have experienced steady growth. We are gaining traction in the US with products now available in 27 stores across the Pacific Northwest and continue to source the most sustainable ingredients to deliver on our impact agenda,” Kaltenbach said in a statement. “We know businesses can profit with purpose and we are proving it.”

Thrive Lab was launched in 2023, with a goal of providing $100 million in “equity and equity-like” investments into women-led businesses. In addition to capital, Thrive Lab also provides mentorship and resources to help companies scale. In a statement, Thrive Lab’s managing director Sévrine Labelle said Kaltenbach is “exactly the type of founder we aim to invest in.”

“We see a big opportunity in plant-based foods as consumers increasingly focus on their health and demand more sustainable options,” Labelle added. “Working alongside YSpace and Spring, we are glad we could help Save da Sea exceed its fundraising target and get the advice and support it needs to achieve financial and impact success faster.”

In addition to being part of Thrive Lab, Save da Sea is also a member of YSpace’s Food & Beverage Accelerator program, and last year joined Future Ocean Foods, a global foodtech association aimed at accelerating solutions in the alternative seafood industry.

“Fundraising was hard but I was fortunate to have BDC’s Thrive Lab as a partner,” Kaltenbach told BetaKit. “I learned so much working with an institutional investor, and having partners like YSpace and Spring, to hold my hand through the process, was invaluable.”

Save da Sea says it will put the new investment toward expanding to more retailers in the USand add new hires to its Victoria headquarters.

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.