Cultured fish co Finless Foods raises $3.5m, predicts “rapid commercialization within years, not decades”

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Finless Foods co-founders Brian Wyrwas (left) and Mike Selden (right) Finless Foods co-founders Brian Wyrwas (left) and Mike Selden (right)
Finless Foods co-founders Brian Wyrwas (left) and Mike Selden (right) Finless Foods co-founders Brian Wyrwas (left) and Mike Selden (right)
Finless Foods – one of a new wave of start-ups in the rapidly heating-up cultured fish* arena - has raised $3.5m in a seed round that cofounder and CEO Mike Selden says will “bring us to the end of our initial R&D phase, meaning we’ll have the tools necessary to move into production pending the closing of a Series A.”

In a post on medium,​ Selden said the round – led by Silicon Valley-based VC firm Draper Associates - had been completed “a few months ago,”​ and was supported by Softmatter VC in New York, Starlight in Florida, The U-Start Club in Italy, Blue Horizon in Switzerland, Hemisphere Ventures in Seattle, Babel Ventures in San Francisco, Yakumi Investment in Tokyo, Olive Tree Capital in San Francisco, Breakoff Capital in Hong Kong, and Harrison Blue Ventures in New York.

Bay area-based Finless Foods – co-founded by Selden and Brian Wyrwas, molecular biologists who met at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst – has just completed a move into a new facility in Emeryville, CA, that is “providing us a solid and state-of-the-art base, giving us the room to grow in the coming years​,” he added.

The opportunity this money gives us to perfect our science and create delicious, safe, and healthy food is genuinely exciting to our entire team. We’ve already dramatically lowered cost and secured precious cellular material that will push us into rapid commercialization within years, not decades."

“At Draper Associates​, we try to look at the ‘what if it works’. In a given deal in early-stage venture capital, there is a 1x downside, and the potential for unlimited upside. The ‘what if it works’ for Finless is enormous: on the health front, they’re creating a cleaner fish product without the growing plastic and mercury content; on the access front, that fish’s availability won’t be restricted to coastal areas; and on the environment front, they have the potential to reduce or eliminate the worldwide problem of overfishing.”

Bill Draper, general partner, Draper Associates  

For clean meat, the cost is all tied up in the growth media

In a recent interview​ with FoodNavigator-USA, Selden said that Finless Foods would initially work with chefs in high-end restaurants “to spark a conversation, and get the public to understand who we are,”​ before going into other foodservice outlets or grocery stores. ​

But he added: "Our ultimate goal is to bring the price down so that consumers can have a choice of cheap albacore or skipjack tuna - or our high quality bluefin tuna without any contaminants - for the same price."​

He added: “For clean meat, the cost is all tied up in the growth media, and costs are coming down dramatically.”​

Asked about the business model, he told us over the weekend: “We're actively pursuing partnerships."

Clean meat/fish: We’re creating fish in sterile conditions

Asked about terminology, he said: “I like the term ‘clean meat’ because it’s simple and it gets across what we’re doing.

"We’re creating fish in sterile conditions, so you don’t have the same challenges with bacteria and infections or food-borne pathogens, which also means it lasts longer with less spoilage.  But it’s also cleaner for the environment… no giant fish farms with pesticides and herbicides, and there’s no slaughter​ ​[an important factor for consumers attracted to clean meat from an animal welfare perspective].”

As for the GMO factor, he said: “We’re not GMO ​​[according to the ‘bioengineered’ definition enshrined in the federal GMO labeling legislation - not yet in force​​]; we use genetic engineering in the creation of the growth factors used in our growth medium, but the proteins are not present in the final product.”

Read more about Finless Foods HERE​.  

*Other firms producing fish by culturing cells (without raising or slaughtering animals) include Wild Type​ and BlueNalu​.

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