San Francisco Is Getting the World’s First Lab-Grown Sushi Bar
San Francisco-based aquaculture startup Wildtype plans to serve slaughter-free, sushi-grade salmon at the world's first lab-grown sushi bar. The sushi bar hopes to change harmful fishing practices common in the market by providing a cruelty-free menu. The start-up company uses a small number of fish cells to develop nearly 200,000 pounds of lab-grown fish per year. By duplicating the fish cells, researchers at Wildtype discovered a way to produce sushi-grade fish, without having to harvest it from the over-fished oceans.
In what could be called the Seaspiracy Effect, consumers are eager to find alternatives to fish that will allow them to enjoy their favorite seafood taste but without contributing to the harmful fishing practices that are leaving species endangered and oceans in peril from reef death, pollution from fishing nets and other detritus that gets left behind by trawlers, and generally help restore the ecological health of the world's oceans.
The sushi bar will be located directly next to the original production facility and will be completely operated by the WildType staff. The complex where the innovative sushi bar will be located was designed by legendary architect Shuo Zhai and will include an education center with a glass door between the production and tasting room as well as full bleacher seating. The food tech company hopes to provide transparency on every level of its manufacturing and development, specifically to call out the often shrouded worldwide fishing industry.
“Global demand for seafood is outpacing supply, so the status quo needs to change,” co-founder and cardiologist Arye Elfenbein said. “Our pilot plant will showcase the promise and wonder of growing fish fillets using cell cultivation. In addition to being designed to shorten innovation cycles and facilitate the scaling of food production, the facility will be a place where the public can learn about this fascinating new technology.”
Elfenbein founded this company with former diplomat Justin Kolbeck in an effort to both reinvent the fish industry and also promote sustainability in food sourcing. The company hopes to reduce the stress that the fishing market has on the ocean. The cell-based grown fish substitute is set to revolutionize the seafood industry. The company promises to replicate the taste and texture of its animal-based counterpart.
“People are often so removed from the process of meat and seafood production,” Elfenbein continued. “We wanted to remove that barrier, to have customers feel connected to what they are eating.”
Recently, Wildtype launched its pilot plant which at its near-term capacity currently producing approximately 50,000 pounds of cell-based seafood per year. The company claims that at maximum capacity the plant will be able to manufacture nearly 200,000 pounds of slaughter-free, cell-based fish. Currently, the US government has not approved the cell-based meat for the market, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just began its pre-market consultation, meaning that consumers may see this live-fish alternative nationwide.
Another California company based in San Diego, BlueNalu, held tastings for cruelty-free seafood in 2019. The company yellowtail amberjack, mahi-mahi, and red snapper were prepared by local chefs to display the potential of cell-based fish to global investors and possible partners.
Currently, Singapore is the only country in the world that allows companies to develop and sell cell-based meat. Singapore initially allowed Eat Just to begin selling its cell-based chicken bites last year, and now plans to expand its cell-based meat industry across the country.
Other vegan seafood brands worldwide have been pushing to expand their product lines as the demand for plant-based and cell-based seafood rises. Vegan seafood brand Good Catch secured $26 million through its parent company Gathered Foods. Good Catch gain popularity with its vegan tuna, and now plans to use this funding package to push its product development forward and increase its distribution range.