The world’s first lab-grown sushi bar opens in San Francisco
A one-of-a-kind sushi bar is slated to open in San Francisco, California this fall, where none of the fish on the menu has ever been fished out of the ocean or been alive. That’s because the sushi bar is run by Wildtype, an aquaculture startup that grows sushi-quality salmon from a small amount of fish cells in a laboratory setting. Adjacent to the pilot production facility, the sushi bar will be part of a complex operated by Wildtype and designed by the renowned architect Shuo Zhai, with an education center with grandstand seats and a glass door that separates the tasting room from the production area – elements that enhance transparency in the new cultivated meat industry and a stark contrast to the opacity of the global industrial fishing industry.
The company, founded by cardiologist Aryé Elfenbein and former diplomat Justin Kolbeck, aims to reduce the stress of industrial fishing in the oceans by offering a cell-based fish alternative that is identical in all important respects to its animal counterpart.
“Global demand for seafood exceeds supply, so the status quo needs to change. Our pilot facility will show the promise and wonder of growing fish fillets through cell culture, ”said Ivory. “The system should not only shorten innovation cycles and facilitate the scaling of food production, but also be a place where the public can find out about this fascinating new technology.”
Bringing non-meat seafood to market
The Wildtype pilot facility recently started operating with a short term capacity of approximately 50,000 pounds of seafood per year. At maximum capacity, the facility will be able to produce over 200,000 pounds of non-slaughtered seafood annually. The market launch of this cell-based fish is made difficult by the fact that the United States is not yet required to obtain regulatory approval for meat produced in this way. That could change soon, however, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now undergoing a pre-launch consultation process.
Singapore is currently the only country in the world that allows cell-based meat to be sold. After a lengthy and thorough process, Singapore approved the sale of Eat Just’s cell-based chicken bites late last year. Shortly thereafter, the Californian startup teamed up with themed restaurant 1880 to put their GOOD Meat Cultured Chicken on the menu in a variety of Presenting dishes that stimulate conversation about the past, present and future of the global food system.
While the 1880 tasting was the first time cell-based meat was sold anywhere in the world, it wasn’t the first time it was tried by the public. Last year, Israeli food technology startup SuperMeat unveiled the world’s first laboratory-grown meat restaurant called “The Chicken,” a test kitchen next to its pilot production facility – much like Wildtype plans to do with its sushi bar. There, SuperMeat served guests samples of its laboratory-grown chicken in two burger options, along with other dishes to highlight the main ingredient.
In the seafood segment, San Diego-based BluNalu hosted a 2019 tasting of its Yellowtail Amberjack for investors and global partners, where its chefs prepared the lab-grown fish the traditional way (raw, acidified and cooked) to showcase its versatility. In addition to Yellowtail, BlueNalu has successfully developed other finfish products, including mahi mahi and red snapper, and plans to launch these this year, subject to regulatory approval.
In Singapore, local aquaculture startup Shiok Meats is developing cell-based shrimp, lobster and crab to combat the cruel crustacean industry in the Asia-Pacific region, where slave labor remains a human rights issue. Last year, the startup raised $ 12.6 million to fund its mission and plans to launch its first commercial product, diced shrimp, in 2022.
Save the seas with vegan seafood
While the plight of our oceans has been discussed for decades, the documentary is Sea spiral—made by Kip Andersen, the filmmaker behind it Cow pirate and What about health?– brought the horror of global industrial fishing back into the spotlight when it premiered on Netflix in March. The need to develop novel solutions to save the oceans has never been greater, and both cell-based companies and seafood manufacturers are rising to the challenge.
In April, vegan seafood brand Good Catch secured a $ 26 million round of funding through its parent company Gathered Foods to drive innovation, expand its product lines and expand its brand internationally. Known for its vegan tuna, Good Catch makes plant-based seafood from a proprietary blend of six beans and legumes. Last year, the brand entered into a joint venture agreement with Bumble Bee Foods, through which it will leverage the tuna giant’s sales, distribution and logistics expertise to bring Gathered Foods vegan products to a wide range of customers at affordable prices
A growing number of companies around the world are entering the seafood business, including Hong Kong-based vegan brand OmniFoods. Founded by eco-conscious entrepreneur David Yeung, who owns the social enterprise Green Monday, OmniFoods is already known in Asia for its plant-based pork alternatives. The new OmniSeafood line launched last month includes vegan fish products such as Omni Classic Filet, Omni Golden Fillet and Omni Ocean Burger – in original, breaded or breaded fish burger variants – together with OmniTuna and an upcoming OmniSalmon.