Most people who follow food are aware that scientists and tech companies are trying to grow meat in labs. When they’ll see it and what it will look and taste like—those are details mysterious even to the companies that plan to make them.
But a different kind of protein is on the way—or at least, residing in numerous test tubes. Two young biology grads are working to create in-vitro fish fillets through their start-up, called Finless Foods. “We want to recapitulate every single thing on a dinner plate,” says Brian Wyrwas, 24, one of the two founders. “The sound, sizzle, smell, and consistency of a fish fillet.”
They think they can make it happen late in 2019, a large claim in a lab-grown protein field already full of big promises. But Wyrwas and Mike Selden, 26, his cofounder, have set their sights on producing the big kahuna (it’s irresistible)—bluefin tuna, one of the world’s most threatened and charismatic species, and just the kind of bait likely to draw right-minded, sushi-loving-but-guilty-about-it Bay Area VCs. So far the founders appear to have the pursuit of in-vitro fish largely to themselves, and claim a number of advantages over their meat-minded rivals.
One is lower production costs: Culturing fish cells can take place at room temperature, they say, as opposed to the electricity-chomping body-heat temperature needed for culturing meat. Once they hit on the right cells to culture and the way to “brew” them, they will outsource some jobs to other start-ups, ones that are culturing cells for organs to transplant and using 3-D printers to do it. Wyrwas and Selden can find such start-ups alongside them at IndieBio, the San Francisco incubator that first provided a growth medium to a lab-grown meat start-up, Memphis Meats, several years ago. When I visited IndieBio this summer, it seemed to function just as its investors intended—as a place where white-coated techs trade notes and techniques at benches beside each other.