Sometimes business is the best way to make a difference. That’s the lesson Las Vegan Dominique Barnes learned after graduating from the University of California, San Diego, with a master’s in marine biodiversity and conservation. “I was so stoked to be near the ocean and make this huge change,” says Barnes, who once worked at the Mirage and Golden Nugget aquariums, “but I realized that government and academia move slow while ocean changes happen fast. … Business and entrepreneurship are a way to make an impact quickly.”
So she started New Wave Foods, a sustainable seafood startup that’s developing shrimp and shark-fin alternatives. “Our products are made from algae,” Barnes says, “so it’s almost like taking out the middleman—the middleman being shrimp.” Barnes and her co-founder Michelle Wolf initially set out to create a replacement for China’s controversial shark-fin soup, but switched the focus to shrimp, because it’s America’s most-eaten seafood and is found in cuisines across the globe.
With an investment from startup incubator IndieBio, New Wave is refining the shrimp’s texture and adding nutrition to the products so they’re not only good for the environment, but also good for consumers. Will New Wave’s goods ever meet a Vegas shrimp cocktail? Barnes says at least one local chef has expressed interest. “Our goal is to make a truly healthy, accessible, sustainable seafood.”