Salmon has long been touted as a superfood thanks to its rich nutrient profile and various health benefits. But overfishing, pollution, and disease have significantly dwindled wild populations of salmon over the last couple of decades.
This problem has only been exacerbated by salmon farms, which have a recurring problem with parasites that flourish in densely-packed pens and spread to wild fish when farmed fish escape.
On a mission to solve most environmental caveats that come with having salmon in your diet, a San Francisco-based startup called Wildtype wants to put the fish on your table in an ethical way by growing it in the lab.
Similar to lab-grown meat, Wildtype’s salmon starts with real animal cells and adds a mixture of nutrients, salts, sugars, amino acids, and growth factors to coax the cells to grow as they naturally would inside an animal’s body. At the end of the process, you get animal tissue that contains muscle, blood, and fat, just like the real thing minus the environmental problems.
Not only that, by growing it in a controlled environment, the cultured fish meat is also free of mercury, microplastics, and the other pollutants that farmed fish are increasingly becoming exposed to.
As co-founder Arye Elfenbein explains, Wildtype created its own technology for the “scaffolds” where tissue grows. “This is applicable to other species than the salmon that we have worked on. We basically create a scaffold that provides the right guidance…for cells to take up fats in different places or become more striated.”
While they still have a couple of important things to work on, including improving the taste experience and making the production process cheaper, Wildtype plans to introduce the eco-salmon on the market in less than five years.