Salmon “tissue” start-up nets $3.5Mn in seed capital

William Stoichevski

Salmon “cultivated in a lab” without ever ever having been part of a swimming fish is the latest idea to have won the support of U.S. venture capitalists, SalmonBusiness has learned.

Investor lead Spark Capital along with Root Ventures, Mission Bay Capital and a number of private investors have provided USD 3.5 million in seed capital for California-based, Wild Type, which aims to grow “commercial volumes” of salmon “tissue”. The chief selling point is that no animal will be “slaughtered”, and so meat eaters and vegans are the target market, the Spark web page suggests.

“Many animals suffer terribly when they die for our consumption, and factory farming is cruel and environmentally damaging. Our oceans are overfished and contaminated with heavy metals and plastics, which affects downstream industries like fish farming. And that’s just the start,” writes investor, John Melas-Kyriazi, at Spark Capital.

According to Melas-Kyriazi, “a growing number of scientists, engineers, policy-makers, and entrepreneurs” see lab-cultured salmon just like the conventional salmon-farming industry does: as a way to feed global hunger for protein.

“We see a compelling product innovation opportunity, a huge market, and many bright founders dedicating their lives to it,” he said.

Stem-cell salmon
The founders of Wild Type are Justin Kolbeck and Aryé Elfenbein, the latter seemingly with the technical knowhow to grow meat — any meat — “directly from animal cells”. The aim is obviously an increasingly squeamish North American consumer base. Kolbeck is, according to TechCrunch, a former U.S. diplomat in Afghanistan whose eureka moment reportedly came when he saw meat being smuggled across the border from Pakistan.

Elfenbein, was reportedly studying for a PhD in cardiology. His field was tissue-engineering, stem cell biology and cell development.

“As we got to know their team and their potential, we also saw the long-term opportunity to grow meat that’s healthier, tastier, and ultimately more affordable than what’s currently available,” Melas-Kyriazi writes.

Round 1
This first round “cultivation” —  no tonnage estimates are out yet —  is about creating minced salmon for a sushi roll, for which “a bottoms-up movement among chefs and food-lovers” is apparently underway. From there, they’ll target salmon for bagels and then … fillets.

“Wild Type was born in salmon country, along the North Pacific Coast. Justin is a proud Seattleite, our creative advisor Peter Platt is a fixture of the Portland food scene, and Aryé has made the great Northern California coast his home,” a statement from Wild Type said.

“We live and work in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. We are also looking for new colleagues to join our team, particularly as we move closer to releasing our first salmon product.”


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