Finless Foods: Seafood without the catch


Part 1 of our Sustainable Foods Series,
by Kira Schuetzenhofer, Editor


Seafood is beloved by many and there is an ever-growing market for it. However, our hunger for fish is exhausting marine ecosystems, with more than 70 percent of the world’s fisheries being either significantly depleted, over exploited, or fully exploited.

The source of the product, a bunch of Bluefin tuna cells, from Neo.Life by Medium.

The source of the product, a bunch of Bluefin tuna cells, from Neo.Life by Medium.

One alternative to common fishing and a response to a growing world-wide demand is fish farming, also known as aquaculture. However, this brings with it an enormously detrimental environmental impact, due to the large amount of fish meal needed to feed the mass of cultured fish, which is sourced from the ocean, and the waste produced by these farms, and natural habitats being replaced by such farms. Due the huge number of fish confined in small farms, diseases and parasites spread rapidly. Not only that, but increasing ocean pollution and fish farms bring with them unwanted contaminants such as microplastic, mercury and antibiotics, which end up on our plates.  

The founders of a food start-up called “Finless Foods”, based in Emeryville, California, are grabbing this problem by the fin. The two founders, Michael Selden and Brian Wyrwas, had the idea to deliver fresh, high-quality fish to customers directly from a dish in the lab. They decided to forego all the negative consequences of conventional fishing/harvesting by growing muscle cells of healthy Bluefin tuna in nutrient-rich media, which are then shaped into visually appealing fillets and steaks.

The founders have high hopes for their product. So far, the work of Finless Foods is in its early stages, and still has many hurdles to overcome. The biotech company is still in its research phase, with one of its main aims being to learn how to properly seed muscle, connective tissue and fat cells into guiding scaffolds, to mimic the original product as closely as possible.  

Fish cakes containing Finless Foods cells, presented at their taster in September 2017, from Finless Foods.

Fish cakes containing Finless Foods cells, presented at their taster in September 2017, from Finless Foods.

One question is how to sell food grown in a bioreactor in a society that is increasingly concerned with consuming organic, non-processed foods. The Finless Foods team does have an answer to this, saying that the cruelty-free and safe approach to seafood will definitely appeal to people, and that this is just a new, improved way to practice sustainability. Another major issue is obviously whether Finless Foods will ever target regular grocery stores. Now, as a start-up which aims to sell its products to high-end restaurants as a promotion by 2019, Finless Foods is fighting to bring down the enormous production costs.

Finless Foods’ end goal is to provide an affordable, sustainable, healthy and cruelty-free alternative to caught or harvested seafood for customers. The team eventually wants to expand their range to include more luxury species of fish, making the product competitive and attractive to customers, simultaneously allowing over-exploited fish populations to be preserved and replenished. With the right support and marketing, Finless Foods is one of the companies that are on their way to change the way we as a species regard and treat food.

About Clustermarket:

Clustermarket is building a world leading online equipment sharing and booking platform enabling and accelerating science. Clustermarket's marketplace is giving scientists easy and affordable access to equipment and technical services in nearby institutions. Research facilities/labs have the opportunity to promote their resources to external businesses, colleagues or even international collaboration partners.

About Science Entrepreneur Club:

The Science Entrepreneur Club (SEC) is a non-profit organisation of curious minds that aims to explore and unite the life science ecosystem by educating, inspiring and connecting. We give scientific entrepreneurs a network and a platform to showcase their innovative technologies, find investors and accelerate their company.

References: ~