Welcome to the world’s first cultivated seafood pilot plant
Since we started building Wildtype nearly five years ago, the public conversation about the cultivated seafood and meat industry has largely centered on “firsts.” First burger (h/t Mosa), first meatball (h/t Upside), etc.
While we’ve seen plenty of blueprints and imaginative art depicting what manufacturing facilities might look like, we’re excited to share a look inside Wildtype’s San Francisco pilot plant, which is now operational. This is not only the world’s first operating pilot plant in the cultivated seafood space, but it’s also the first time any cultivated meat or seafood company in the world is giving the public a look inside the built environment we developed to create our salmon products. We are sharing renderings rather than photography at this time, as much of our equipment and instrumentation is proprietary.
Wildtype’s pilot production plant in San Francisco, CA
You can take an interactive walk through our pilot plant on our new website, and we’d like to highlight a few of its main features below. First, our tasting room is located in the lower left and is lovingly referred to as “The Dock” (yes it’s built in a converted loading dock, re-designed by the architect Shuo Zhai). This is where visitors will be able to taste Wildtype seafood at our very own sushi bar. From The Dock, visitors can walk up the bleacher seating (where we’ll screen documentaries and host tours and tastings with science classes from local schools) to see where their seafood was made.
Wildtype and many of our sister companies in the alternative meat, seafood, and dairy industries are beginning to challenge the notion that people who enjoy eating food cannot see how that food is made, or where it came from. It is almost impossible to visit the slaughterhouses or fish processing plants where our meat and seafood are made. Beyond reconnecting people to their food on an emotional level (rather than avoiding the hard truths behind where it came from), to us transparency means breaking down these barriers and letting people see where their food comes from. That simple glass door that separates our tasting room from our production floor is just the beginning.
Wildtype salmon nigiri made by Chef Adam Tortosa of Robin
The second thing to highlight about our pilot plant is that we designed it to work well in an industrial building right in the middle of a bustling city. This means that our food can be produced much closer to the population centers where it’s consumed. Fewer food miles means a greener and cleaner supply chain.
Additionally, we built our pilot plant to facilitate the rapid iteration needed in an industry that is still in hyper-growth mode. Rather than bolting everything down and designing an inflexible system, we decided to create a mobile environment that allows us to constantly improve and innovate on our processes. This engineering obsession of ours has already resulted in shorter innovation cycles.
We envision a production system that can be built in any city in the world. Building demonstration-scale facilities like this proves that we can grow the highest quality seafood anywhere in the world: urban or rural, temperate or tropical. We have already shown that we can build a pilot facility right in the heart of San Francisco that can satisfy most of, if not all, the salmon sushi sold in the city. If we can do it with one facility on a microbrewery footprint, we believe we can reproduce this model all over the country, and indeed around the world.
Wildtype salmon sushi roll with avocado and cucumber
While we started this post with a mention of firsts, we wanted to close with an observation. The first era of cultivated seafood and meat is drawing to a close. That period was characterized by companies clamoring to achieve proofs of concept and raise profiles to attract investment. The second era, which is upon us now, is about one thing: scale.
Scale, however, needs to be achieved in a way that continues to drive down cost, making our products accessible to more people. We’re thrilled to soon be delivering delicious, clean, and nutritious sushi-grade salmon to our launch partners. What comes after that, however, is making Wildtype salmon available to consumers all around the country at places like Costco, Trader Joes, and Walmart. And, of course, we will scale in a way that ensures that our production processes have a lower environmental footprint than conventional production methods.
Wildtype and many other companies have demonstrated that cellular agriculture technologies can create delicious, nutritionally comparable alternatives to conventional seafood and meat products. But what we’re thinking about now is building our next “Fishery” to meet the demand we’re already hearing from our launch partners. Once we launch Wildtype sushi in grocery stores, there is no room for stock outs, missed deliveries, or quality issues, and so our pilot production process needs to be fully stress-tested before we can move up in scale. We’re rising to this challenge and are excited to introduce our products to the public very soon.