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Fishless Fish is on a Roll

A company called Wildtype has a pilot production plant in San Francisco. It's one of a handful of cell-cultivated seafood companies in the US. Inside, it’s growing sushi-grade coho salmon in tanks similar to those found in breweries – no fishing or farming required. Indeed, no fish are required.

Faux salmon by Wildtype
Wildtype’s salmon nigiri. Credit: Wildtype

Cultivation starts by taking a small sample from a living fish species. Cells then multiply as they would in nature in the large vessels and eventually become fatty and lean parts of a fish fillet.

Could fishless fish be the next big thing in seafood production? While plant-based seafood products in the US account for only 0.1% of seafood sales – less than the 1.4% of the US meat market is occupied by plant-based meat alternatives – venture capitalists are getting serious about cell-based seafood. Wildtype has received $100m (£88.4m) from such luminaries as Leonardo DiCaprio, Bezos Expeditions and Robert Downey Jr’s FootPrint Coalition, among others. Other companies are also enjoying a surge in capital investments. So, it looks like fishless fish will likely be on our plates in the not too distant future.

After all, plant-based milk is now mainstream and is set to grow. Particularly as precise fermentation creates products identical in taste, texture, and nutrients to traditional dairy from cows.

As to fish, advocates say cruelty-free cell-cultivated seafood is a solution to the seafood industry’s many environmental problems, and that sustainable sources of seafood are needed to meet the demand from a growing global population. Entrepreneurs agree.

While plant-based alternatives that look and taste like fish are gaining traction, cruelty-free cultivated seafood products could be on dinner plates in the next year or two, pending regulatory approval from the US food and drug administration.



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