Wanda Fish on track to make a splash in cultivated seafood amid research collaboration with Tufts University
The Israel-based start-up will also gain exclusive rights to the intellectual property in fish cell cultivation
23 Mar 2022 --- Cultivated seafood start-up Wanda Fish Technologies has signed two agreements with Tufts University, US, to advance its path to fully developed cultivated fish on par with their finned counterparts.
The first gives Wanda Fish exclusive rights to certain intellectual property in fish cell cultivation developed by Tufts researcher David Kaplan. The second is a two-year research agreement sponsored by the company to develop a roadmap to the final developed product.
FoodIngredientsFirst speaks with Daphna Heffetz, co-founder and CEO of Wanda Fish, who anticipates the investment in research will significantly propel the start-up in producing sustainable, tasty, cultivated fish fillets.
“I believe that it will take much less time nowadays to achieve cost parity due to the build-up of a lot of know-how in the last few years,” she says.
“Also, marine cell cultures may be more forgiving in terms of temperature, pH and oxygen requirements compared to mammalian cell cultures.”
Reaching out to academia
To advance these goals, Heffetz searched for an academic group with expertise in cultivated fish to propel and upgrade our R&D path.
“Our search revealed that Kaplan and his team have extraordinary know-how and long-term experience throughout the entire platform required to grow high-end fish fillets.”
She notes that Kaplan, who is also professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Tufts, received a US$10 million grant from the US Department of Agriculture to establish the first national center in the US dedicated to research in cellular agriculture.
Heffetz herself brings more than 20 years of experience in establishing and growing biotechnological companies.
Stepping out of the ocean
Using R&D facilities in the US and Israel, Wanda Fish is establishing a proprietary, GMO-free platform for producing cell-based finless fish fillets of varying species without burdening the ocean.
“We start with a single, one-time sample of a real native fish muscle and fat tissues,” explains Kaplan. “We then pursue the replication of the biological growth of fish, with the nutritional attributes, including protein and omega 3 content, as well as the flavor and textural properties.
The results are clean, safe fish free of microplastics, mercury or other chemical toxicities that are commonly found in some of the wild catch.
Heffetz reveals the team has already made some headway in developing its first prototype of a fish fillet directly from fish cells.
The team is currently growing a few types of fish species. The next couple of months will shed light on which one will be the company’s first product.
Wanda Fish will integrate proprietary applications from multiple disciplines, including cell culture, biotechnology, food tech and culinary design, to achieve its products.
Hitting the price point
Ultimately, the company aims to produce “a versatile range of fish species to satisfy all preferences at affordable prices with uncompromising quality,” says Heffetz.
Some of the main factors influencing the production cost are the cost of serum-free growing medium and the doubling time of the fish cells (i.e. the pace of cell proliferation), she details.
The density of the cells in the bioreactors and the required level of bioreactor monitoring and optimization also play a role.
“Our platform includes an animal-free growing medium, know-how in producing native muscle and fat tissues and specially customized bioreactors.”
These tools will give it the capacity to scale up and eventually bring its cultured fish products to cost parity with conventionally fished counterparts, underscores Heffetz.
Looking to solve a global crisis
Approximately 20% of the protein currently consumed by the global population originates from the ocean, notes the company.
As a highly satiating, nutritionally dense food source, the appetite for seafood, and especially fish, is only projected to keep growing.
This is putting increasing strain on the existing seafood industry to keep up, not to mention already overfished waterways.
“More than three billion people depend on the ocean and its surroundings for their living,” stresses Heffetz.
“Marine biodiversity is critical to the survival of people and our planet. Overfishing, as well as water pollution, is damaging the vast and vital ocean ecosystem. Many wild fish populations are sadly in decline.”
Wanda Fish was formed last year with financial and technical support from the Israeli Innovation Authority (IIA) and in conjunction with The Kitchen FoodTech Hub.
Wanda Fish secured US$3 million in its pre-seed funding round led by The Strauss Group’s, The Kitchen FoodTech Hub. It has also gained investments from Peregrine Ventures, Pico Partners, CPT Capital and MOREVC.
By Missy Green
To contact our editorial team please email us at email@example.com
Subscribe now to receive the latest news directly into your inbox.