Not enough fish in the sea: Start-up works to culture sushi-grade salmon

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In San Francisco, Wildtype is working to grow sushi-grade salmon in a lab amid dangerously depleted ocean populations and factory farming beset with pest problems.

The startup gives salmon cells nutrients, sugars, salts, amino acids and growth factor to “grow” salmon tissue in its lab.   “This is applicable to other species than the salmon that we have worked on,” Wildtype co-founder Arye Elfenbein told Tech Crunch. “We basically create a scaffold that provides the right guidance…for cells to take up fats in different places or become more striated.”

Rising water temperatures and overfishing are depleting wild salmon populations, with the number of wild Atlantic salmon cut in half since the 1970s. Factory farming is difficult because of difficulty with parasites, namely sea lice. Wildtype salmon is also free of mercury and microplastics that conventional fish often contain.

The company estimates it will be about 5 years before its salmon is available at your local supermarket, but chefs can get on a preorder waitlist. Early tests have gotten high marks on texture, but taste and cost—it currently takes about $200 to produce enough lab-grown salmon for one sushi roll—still need some work.

“The dream vision is the cleanest, purest, freshest salmon, without contaminants or antibiotics, for a price lower than farmed Atlantic salmon,” said cofounder Justin Kolbeck.