Finless Foods’ Mike Selden: “We brew fish meat”
Danny In The Valley

Full episode transcript -


Hello. Hello and welcome to Danny in the Valley. Your weekly dispatch from deep inside the West Coast future machine. Before we get to today's show, I wanted to thank you. It's been great to get back to it after the Little Christmas sabbatical, and that's probably because of the support from you. Dear listeners. We've got a lot of great reviews rolling in like this one from August will be great. Who says? Well produced with inspirational guests, the relax interview style makes him an easy listen with loads of little gems of advice. Good job, Danny. Well, thank you. August on random fact August is my son's middle name s Oh,

please keep them coming in. In fact, press pause. Go over, click on the Little Star emblem, maybe jot down a few words. Always done it. Thank you. Now on to today's show. Yeah,


technology. What is it all about? What they really want is they want food that is safe for themselves and their Children. They want food that is nutritious on DDE can really help people grow, and they want food that doesnt have heavy environmental impact. And if that's what they want, we do all those things in spades in a way that organic food doesn't. D'oh! This is our senior scientists. This is he's there with the London Sunday Times. We've been saying that, right?


Yeah, yeah, yeah. So that was Mike Selden. He's the CEO and founder of Finless Foods and kind of an off the wall company that is doing what it says on the tin. They are growing fish flesh in a lab. And yes, that's right, not the fish. Just the meat seldom claims it can be done on a massive scale and is potentially the solution to the environmental disaster that is commercial fishing. So a couple weeks ago, I wanted to see this for myself. So I took a tour of their lab, which is in a little office park, scrunched between the railroad tracks and a highway little forgotten industrial corner of Berkeley, just across the water from San Francisco.


So we initially grow them in a bio reactor. So it's something like a fermenter like what you grow beer in, and we are sort of basically creating them, and at first it's sort of just a massive cells, and these bioreactors just a slurry like a paste from there. We need to give them a structure and texture that people actually want from real steaks, filets and sashimi. But first we're working on or something. What we call unstructured products were working on things like Sauce is working on pace working on Sereni fish cakes. Kirk cuts like fish is an ingredient, really in other, larger things. Um, and then also there's a possibility for a lot of different, like sushi mashes that could go on like spicy tuna roll


type stuff. Right after our tour, I sat down with Sheldon, who is still frighteningly young and very idealistic, also very smart, with lots of very smart backers and investors to talk about how this male work, how he plans to learn from the mistakes of the GMO industry and when exactly, and perhaps most importantly, our fish and chips will be brewed rather than caught. Here he is in


terms of like, when will the public get its hands on this? We plan on being in restaurants at the end of 2019. Wow, so you know we'll do probably something more like a limited, really, said First,


we're looking at something like that were you starting with tuna like we just saw?


Yeah. Our main goal right now is bluefin tuna. It's a bit of a conservation effort. Bluefin tuna are often off the threatened species list every once in a while, every high value, which really helps us. But most the reason why we do it is not because of its high value, but because for us culturing, a bluefin tuna cell costs exactly the same as culturing like a tilapia cell. So we're like, Why not just culture? The most high quality thing we can't because that will be the most valuable to people and get people more excited about what we do at first will be creating price parity with current bluefin tuna, like just selling it for the same price. That bluefin tuna is that, but eventually, since it's the same prices culturing any other fish, what we can do is drop our prices to the point where we give people a choice between eating sheep, albacore and Skipjack tuna filled with mercury and plastic, or our clean bluefin tuna without slaughter, without contaminants for the same price.


What we saw just in the lab, that's the beginning of this process. That's kind of the part one, as you say, Could you give just a quick kind of rundown of how this actually works and how you know? You know where we are? Basically,


Yeah, sure. So what we do is we take a small sample of meat about the size of a U. S. Quarter from a real fish, and then we isolate just the cells that were looking for. These cells need to have two qualities they need to be able to grow out very quickly, and then they need to be able to turn into the cells that people actually want to eat that muscle fat connective tissue because muscle fatty connective tissue cells actually don't divide so you can't grow them out. You have to go out something farther up the stem lineage in order to get the sense you're looking for. In the end, we do that. We get these sort of what we're calling progenitor cells, the cells they grow out. We put them in a bio reactor with media, which gives them all the nutrients that they need to eat. Salt the sugars and the proteins grow them out into a large quantities. We then differentiate them, turn them into the cells. People actually want to eat the muscle fat and connective tissue and give them the same structure, texture and feel of meat and then ship them.


But you're saying the stuff that we like to eat that can't be grown,


it doesn't divide. I mean, if you look at just muscle cells, muscle fibers themselves are complex, like almost knots of cells, and so they don't actually have any room to divide. And they, their cell type doesn't know how. So what we do is we take cells that are a little bit further up the chain. They are not stem cells per se, but they have stem like qualities about


them. And these


are the cells that come to the rescue and heal you. Whenever you have a cut or feel a hell, any sort of animal. When the animal has a cut, they come in and they just sort of re create the muscle that was damaged and buying things back together. So it's not that they aren't meat is that they're only one component of meat. We could, you know, sell these to people and say their meat because they are. We really want people to have the full experience of really eating all of these things together in the ratios that they're used to or into new ratios that they're more excited about. What we can do is create the exact ratio of fat people are looking for. If people want that extremely fatty tuna, that's super high quality. We can create that if they want incredibly lean fish with no fat whatsoever for dietary needs. We can do that, too. Since we have total control over things on a cellular level, we can create a personalised diet for people. Whatever they're interested in eating, we can produce.


So what? What you're growing and in that lab is the kind of the cellular skeleton. Then you kind of give it the structure that you were talking about, the kind of the part, too.


You know, we're just creating all the cell types that could then be used to that kind of be structured properly.


How do you turn that into something that looks like a filet?


So there's many schools of thoughts on this schools of thought. On this, we are working on a few different things Right now, there's a lot of different potential pathways that people can travel down in order to get to the end goal. Everything from enzymatic binding just using a food safe enzyme in order to make these cells have more of a solid form. That's probably the most simple solution to the most complex solution, which would be using stereo lithography using a two photon laser in order to organize the cells in the same way that you would etch a hologram into glass yet to be 100 100% figured out, I think by anybody in any way that is scalable. You know, three organ printing already exists, so we already know we can do it. It's a matter of Can we do it quickly? And can we do it cheaply, right? I mean, fish and chips itself is so simple, right? Because the fish itself is just sort of like this, minced up in mushed around fish.


A lot of the time with good stuff is actually like a filet bits that's battered.


That's fair enough so that we haven't done, but what we've you know, we've done all sorts of prototypes in our lab, so far, and we've created all sorts of different things.


So you have you eaten like a kind of a fish patty already like a kind of mushed up fish. Patty? Yeah,


and not even just me. You know, we've we actually had big prototype tasting back in September. We served up six fish cakes and we had a bunch of our friends come in is about 25 people. And so everybody had a bit of fish cake. How were the results? People said it was good. It tastes like fish. Part of the problem is that at the time were working with Karp, and a lot of people were saying, I don't know what carp tastes like. This is good, but I'm not clear what it's supposed to be like. So we're like, Well, we should probably work the different species after that. So transition into branzino for awhile,

European sea bass, that much more positive reviews because many people know what that tastes like. People were into it. It's it tastes like fish. Part of thing that's great about this is that it's very it's very easy to get this to taste the way we need it to because it is what we needed to be Already. We're not trying to recreate a taste using plants or something. We're using real fish cells that already taste like fish.


Why are you doing this? What problem are you solving?


Why are you doing Stop it. It's a lot of things, you know, for me, I really started this because I'm very concerned with animal. Welfare and fish are like some of the most abused animals on the planet and a lot of the way we kill them in massive numbers. And if you don't care about that, which I think 99.9% of people don't fishing is an environmental and ecological disaster. Drag fishing is destroying ocean ecosystems. We currently have already fully exploited 52% of the fisheries on Earth meeting. You can't get any more fish out of them than we already do. 25% of of that are either over exploited in collapse or in recovery. And so we actually can't get any fish from those anymore because we've ruined them. What


is in collapse


mean? It means that we have destroyed the food chain. We've fished that area so thoroughly that actually, the population is not able to recover and is basically dying out entirely, except for in some instances where we're trying to revive them. And then on top of that, you got the 23% of the fisheries that we could potentially go for to increase wild fish production. These air, usually in places that have extreme weather conditions there too far from the shore to be eco to be economical, thank you. Or they're in politically contested areas like the Senkaku Islands, making it very difficult for us to actually Senkaku islands. You know, those islands that were, like contested between Japan and China. For us, nobody lives there like nobody cares about the land.

They're shipping lanes and fishing lanes. If you look at a graph of wild fish production, it's completely stagnant, has been stagnant for decades now because we can't increase wild fish production, which is why I've been moving towards aqua culture. And so agriculture, in some ways is is a good solution. Sometimes in that it is not destroying ocean ecosystems in as large of a scale. You can keep the fish in a smaller area. You don't have to do dragnet fishing. You know you're purposefully creating a population of fish for us to eat. That, said, is as many of its own problems. Aquaculture, like all industrial agriculture, needs to use pesticides that needs to use herbicides, fungicides, insecticides.


But I feel like I've read things where they talk about large scale aquaculture, and what you have effectively is a giant cylinder in the water of fish, poop and nastiness, all kind


of mixed together. It can be a large spread of disease. There have been many cases where aquaculture facilities have been overtaken by sea lice, which is the past. It just


gives me the willies, just that word. Sea lice. It's like


land lice, you know, you're just not likes generally are bad. And so it just when you put animals in that close conditions like they're not meant to do that. You know, biology is not up to the task of creating immune system's strong enough to deal with quarters that close. We have to pump animals full of antibiotics now in order to keep them disease free as it is. And so it is also an environmental disaster, just for different reasons. It in many ways and oftentimes is a step up from wild caught fish. And now the technology is at the point where for many varieties of fish, you actually get the taste equal or better using agriculture, which I think is awesome. But from an animal welfare perspective perspective, it's actually a total disaster. And from an environmental perspective, it's not really that much of a step up a lot of time. And there are certain varieties of fish, like the bluefin tuna that actually still cannot be aquaculture. For various reasons,


I imagine, to create a tuna and tuna meat like we're custom to, they need to be out swimming thousands of miles and do whatever they do.


Yep, bluefin tuna need to be in constant motion, and any tank do you have for them will be fairly big. But there's all sorts of problems that you wouldn't even think of for a while. The main problem they were having with bluefin tuna is that once they got past a certain stage in life in aquaculture, they would stop eating, and the people who were doing the research, like what's going on, tried feeding them all sorts of different things and the bluefin tuna has died and died and died until eventually started feeding them different things from birth. And they figured out that actually, because they had not given the tune of this set of nutrients from when they were born, their eyes didn't develop properly, and they were actually blind and couldn't see the food. So it's not that they weren't hungry. They didn't want it. But they were blind, so died of starvation.

This sort of problem is typical. When you're dealing with organism a biology like it's a very complicated system. Any full organism to make a system in which you are growing them from birth all the way to breeding and to eventual slaughter is complicated, and it requires a lot of research into what is basically a black box like, What is this organism? You have to understand everything about it in order to properly work with it, and we have to do with that in the minimal level because we are working with cells and we do need to understand what they're doing. But cells were so much simpler than entire organisms that it really makes things easier. We can measure the output easier we can measure our inputs easier that we can keep conditions more stable. There's, Ah, higher population, meaning that we can run tests with with better statistics. It's just simpler to do cellular biology.


Have you thought about the public reception to this of like a meeting? A test tube fish? No, thanks. I'll go. The real thing


we have, we put we put some very serious thought into it. We're doing everything we can to not make the mistakes that the GMO industry made in terms of just really not talking to people about it and just sort of putting things on the market without explaining and having an open conversation about it. We're coming at this as environmental activists. I've never created a company Before I was a scientist. I was working at a hospital. My co founder was the same. I was working at Mount Sinai Icon School of Medicine, doing high throughput cancer screening. He was working at Weill Cornell Medical College. Also, cancer research between primary cell culture. We are not some large, faceless corporation that is trying to do this and also like drill oil wells in Saudi Arabia. We are very much committed to environmental activism, and we're doing this for considered to be the right reasons, which are environmental ones in terms of public perception.

You know, you ask people what they wanted of food, and they say they want organic food, and they say they want natural. But if you ask them to define any of those things, they have absolutely no idea what that means. 80% of people who say that they don't like GMO don't know what J. Mo stands for. Many people who like organic food think that organic food doesn't use pesticides, which is completely untrue. It uses more pesticides than non organic food. But what you really asked people is like Okay, but what do you really want from organic food? What do you want from natural food? And people have very simple and very noble desires in that what they really want is they want food that is safe for themselves and their Children. They want food that is nutritious on DDE can really help people grow,

and they want food that doesnt have heavy environmental impact. And if that's what they want, we do all those things in spades in a way that organic food doesn't D'oh. I have been eating a lot of it, mostly because I've been eating a plant based diet for so long that I don't really remember what meat tastes like, and we eat it in order to generate the taste and change our nutrients to make it taste better. So, having meat, it's kind of like why? But people on my team who do actually eat meat normally have been eating it for a pretty consistent amount of time. And so they're doing fine. And, uh, you know, we don't see any problems going on with this in the future. You know,

where we we know we don't have the mercury in plastic that conventional fish does. And we know that this is just derived from a fish. And so it has a very similar nutrition content to fish. So we have very high confidence. This is going to be a more nutritious choice than people currently have available to them.


So you were working in a hospital working on high throughput cancer screening, and then you wake up one day and be like I want to make fish flesh in a test tube. How's that? How do you get there?


It was not waking up one day. It was. It was years and years of thinking about it. I've always been a gigantic SciFi fan and also a very big seafood fan. I grew up on the North Shore of Boston, and so seafood was a gigantic part of my clam chowder. Yep, Clam chowder was huge. And lobster, We're both really, really. Ah, integral to me. Growing up, I went to a university that specializes in agriculture. I went to U Mass. Amherst,

which is out in western Massachusetts. It's historically an agricultural college. It started in 18 90 something and around then sold for America. Back then, it will hit three things you could study was machining military arts and agriculture. Military arts. I don't really know what that means either. To be honest,


maybe you're painting battlefield scenes. Picture


more like sun suit type stuff, but I don't think we have that is a major anymore. But anyway, so being an agricultural school, you really and studying biochemistry, molecular biology, which there is very focused on agriculture. There is this thing called Panama disease, which wiped out all the bananas in the world in the fifties, and the banana that we eat now is actually a different plant that we've decided to call the banana. That fungus is still around. It's true, actually. So the banana before that was called the gross McKell. Well, we now used to be called the Cavendish. You know,

like how we call plantains. Plantains? Yeah, there's considered, like, an alternative banana. And before the fifties, nobody would eat that because the Gros Michel was apparently better. And I


was like a plantain of the old school.


Exactly. So if you ever eat a banana flavored candy right now and you're like, this doesn't taste like bananas. That's because that molecule was actually invented to imitate the gross McKell, not the Cavendish banana. Can it taste like the dress? McHale. So maybe you like the Cavendish better and you think this is a good move. So you're on the fun guys side at this point. Basically, this fungus wiped out all the bananas in the world and, like, you know, regardless of feelings about gross McKell apparently being gross like you. D'oh! It's a danger to a lot of food supply things like tomatoes, wheat,

cotton, basically a lot of crops that people use in order to survive, especially in northern Africa. And so we're working on ways in order to just bat it back and defend crops from it. So basically, always been thinking about agriculture. It's always been a super big thing for me. Is an environmental activist in a 1,000,000 different ways. And so we


were you, actually in activists? Were you kind of on the barricades and whatnot?


I've been doing a bit of political activism my entire life one way or another, have been very involved in De Esa in America now worked on the Environmental caucus back in New York when I when I was in the New York TSA and now in San Francisco, I I do other things, but Democratic Student Association, the Democratic Socialists of America. It's like the biggest


Socialist party in America. So your socialist and a capitalist,


I am a specialist and a CEO. It happens. People are listening to this in London. I feel like it's a little bit more acceptable there in America. I'm considered really weird, but then, when Europeans like talk to me that it's like you're not interesting, I'm like I know, Um, agriculture itself is so incredibly inefficient, especially animal agriculture, which was one of the initial things that spurred me to stop eating meat and to stop eating animal products. It's just a crazy waste of energy waste, so much energy, so much land, so much water. It's just so much worse for the environment in so many ways.

And so I was just thinking about you know, how can you make this process more efficient and better for everyone? And I started thinking about the idea of just growing only the parts of animals that we want. I started looking into this and looking through scientific literature, and I found, you know, the people who really started this whole field. I found modern meadow over in Brooklyn by on dress for Gosh, I found Mark Post in the Netherlands, and I found New Harvest also in in New York, inviting them. I was like, Oh, my God, I'm not crazy.


And these are people just growing in different types of animal proteins in the


lab. Yes, a modern meadow at the time was working on beef. They pivoted toe leather. Mark Post is working on beef in the Netherlands, and the new harvest is a nonprofit that I've actually I ended up doing some work with, and that's sort of how I started this company. And they're just doing funding for grants for people to do PhDs in this field. There's plenty of us


really thought, What is this field called?


We're calling it clean meat because it's cleaner, you know, it's got considerably less bacteria were growing meat under sterile conditions. We don't have to have any of this harmful runoff going on an industrial agriculture or an industrial aquaculture. And it's something that can really help you have a clean consciously or eating me. You know you're not. It's slaughter free. It's pesticide free and it's toxin and contaminant free. And so we think that clean meets a good name


for it. Looking at it from the scientific point of view and also the venture capital Silicon Valley point of view, when you talk about scale and the ability to scale, is it scientifically possible to make this actually scaleable or to be like big fish, big B, big F or big meat or whatever to actually take those on and to replace them or to offer an alternative that anybody walking into a super Michael will one day be able to choose between the two


I d'oh, we've done the math, and I would never have been able to start the company if I hadn't done the math because people were like, You know, that SciFi. That's not riel. But then, if you can show them the numbers on the cells need this to survive. We believe, due to the evidence that we have read in the scientific papers, that if we feed it this this this and this which we can produce for this cost, we can produce meat that is inexpensive enough to serve that the average person. And it's just funny when people say this industry is impossible. I say we'll have you done the math and nobody who says that has ever done


the math and so are you guys is their community around the kind of a clean meat community because there's people like Memphis meats and impossible foods were doing basically burger meat and things like this, or duck and poultry. There does seem to be a little bit of ah community forming around


this. The other definitely is There's just not a lot of companies doing it.


Why now? Is it the science that has kind of reached a point where this is possible? Why, while all of a sudden is there, seem, I mean obviously people in talking about the problems with kind of industrial food production for years now, why we're at the point now? We're actually there's companies being started to address us.


Recent advances in synthetic biology have really gotten this to where it needs to be. You know, not everyone knows this, but we're right now, going through a synthetic biology revolution on scale with the invention of the computer in the seventies. This is going to change everything that we eat, everything that we use, all the materials that we make everything out of, in the same way that the invention of the computer changed everything that we d'oh. But it's going to be protein engineering. It's going to be regenerative. Medicine is going to be synthetic biology, and a lot of this is made possible due to just like a few sort of boring sounding advances, different advances in genetic engineering, advances in protein engineering advances in really fast next generation sequencing. These things have sort of come together to just create this tool box that allows us to do so much more than we could before. It was like the invention of the transistor.

Everyone sort of said, What do you do with this? What is the point of this? But the people who we're using it as a tool, we're like, just wait. This is going to be incredibly useful. You just have to see the tool for what it can. D'oh! It's exciting. It's a really This is the exact right time to be doing any sort of project like this. It's the ground floor of synthetic biology. You should have seen the sin bio beta conferences here. It's sort of like the largest synthetic biology conference run by former NASA personality John Cumbers. The excitement there was very real. It was really,

really cool people. Finally, this field had sort of come into its own in the past, like two years or so, and it was finally getting the funding that it deserved. It finally had the tools in order to fly that it really needed


so back to those kind of containers of pinkish liquid. We're looking at in the lab. What do you feed? That is it just is it sugars and yes. And what are the inputs to create the synthetic meat? What is what


you're putting into it? It's really three broad categories


of things. So you start with the quarter of meat that you take from,


and we just take the cells we want from that. So it's actually we're not even using the whole quarter. It's just that's a giant chunk of meat and we just want a few cells from it. We then feed those cells, salts and sugars. We get them from food grade suppliers. They are totally safe to eat and you're already eating them. And then we have proteins. Now these proteins are growth factors. Growth factors are already inside of you there, inside of every single animal product that you eat there. What tell the cells to divide. They basically just a signal on the cell, gets the growth factor and then says, Oh, I have this. I'm going to use the sultan sugars to build myself more biomass and create another cell.


So those extracted or those you're kind of secret sauce. You're that you've


synthesized. We are really replicating the exact growth factors that are inside of a fish. And what we're doing to do that is we're taking the DNA that produces a growth factors inside of a fish. We're putting that DNA into a microbe like yeast, and then we're having the east produced these proteins. So they are on a chemical level, the exact same proteins that come out of a fish and the issues in order to grow. We're just producing them, not using a fish. It's the same ways they're very focused, limited environment. We grow them in a fermenter. What beer is brewed in the exact same thing that are inside a fish. We're just making them outside of a fish,


right? And so those the inputs that gets you to the actual fish mush Yeah,


that's more or less everything that we that we need in there in order to, uh, make the fish cells that will be structured and texture to create the steaks and fillets


people want. And then the stakes and flays you need, I imagine some kind of vegetable base or something to kind of give it that body and mouthfeel, et cetera.


There's many different schools of thought like I was saying earlier in this one does use vegetables a scaffold. But some don't I mean what I was mentioning earlier in terms of a stereo lithography, the two photon laser that's actually just using this collagen. We make this fish collagen, and then you can sort of harden it in certain ways to make it sort of have this sort of scaffolding, and you then wash away all the other college in that that wasn't a part of that. Then you just sort of seed it with the muscle and fat cells. They will attach themselves. They're naturally meant to d'oh and create something that doesn't use any vegetable whatsoever. It would be even on a cellular level, the exact same thing that people are eating


now. In theory, you could do this with any fish. Yep. And have you had anybody? I don't know who the big fish company is, but a Cargill a Tyson chicken, whomever. Have they come knocking or expressed interest or they are. They dismissive? The big food players she was


funny is that there isn't really capital B capital F big fish like it's kind of thing. I think a lot of that is because fish is very localized in its production to be very difficult to create some sort of national corporation. I mean, granted, that exists, you know, like Bumble Bee. That's a real thing. But we have been talked to buy large players in, you know, agriculture in general. And people seem excited about


it. You know, they don't see you as a threat to their livelihood, not at all our protein producers, because it kind of like the e cigarettes of seafood.


The thing is like, if I were in their shoes, what would I do? Would I fight against the technology that could potentially be used by me to make myself more money or what? I just jump on board and start doing it myself because their protein producers, they're entirely non ideological about this, they're just like we produce protein. We are a company that makes money. And if this technology is a way to produce protein that makes money, we're gonna do it too. And that's exactly what I want. You know, I come at this from the angle of I want to spread this technology as far as wide as it possibly can. And so if these people want to invest in us and license our technology to do this or to start developing their own technology and become our competitors in that space, awesome, that's perfect.


We talked a little bit about the public perception and GMOs mistakes, and especially in Europe, where a lot of our listeners are very different approach to regulation and also just how genetically modified food is perceived. Have you thought about that, or do you foresee any problems like going beyond America


yet for sure, So just puts out here What we're making is not Jim oh, based on every legal system that I have read on, and Europe is sort of a mishmash of all sorts of regulatory stuff. So maybe there's something crazy in there that I haven't seen. But that said, European regulation is based a lot more on what people want. I don't see this being passed through Europe very easily, just based on how Europe has treated GMOs in the past. For that reason, we don't see ourselves having an initial European launch. We don't see ourselves moving to Europe for quite a bit. We think that if we can sort of prove how safe we are in America and prove how safe we are in Asia, then eventually we can move ourselves towards Europe. Who knows how things will go? We really hope that we can eventually end up in Europe. Some of our backers air in Europe, and some of our closest ties are in Europe. I personally love Europe would love every excuse to go there as much as possible. Time will tell


because it's interesting also in Europe, particularly around the fishing policies, yet to throw away perfectly good fish. If they're just, you know, half a niche to shore, there's a lot of just astounding waist kind of crazy policy around fishing and fishing quotas, et cetera. If this is proven to be safe and it is people like it, it would seem a natural solution. But again, I don't know if it's that's what


I hope you know. I hope that people really see that. I think that will sort of prove that people, that's the idea. People in Europe are much more concerned about their food than people in America. People in Europe really do love the the implications behind organic. They want safe, environmentally friendly food, and we do produce exactly that. So if people concert get past the surface level of what this is, I think they'd really appreciate what we're doing.


I mean, to your credit, your calling it finless foods. It's not like you're dressing this up is something that it's not.


We want to be really clear. I mean, we plan on labeling this. I don't want this to be snuck into the food supply whatsoever. Not only is it super important to not sneak into the food supply and to have an honest conversation, but I want people to be clear that what they're buying from us is better weaken. Change the nutrition. If people want high levels of omega three, you'll make a six th ey. We can do that. If people want no more Korean, No plastic. That's us. We don't have anything like that. No added growth hormones. No antibiotics. That's still us. No environmental devastation, no animal cruelty. You're getting a better product. So we definitely plan on making it clear that they're buying something different.


How much money have you raised?


So far, we have raised 2.6 million in this seed round them before that, we raise another quarter 1,000,000. So we're about three


million total now, right? Who are your backers?


Well, our first Becker was in the bio itself, which is so s Ventures. Our big anchor investor who are really, really grateful for is actually an Italian company called High Food. They make sustainable, natural and healthy ingredients there. Ah, brilliant group of food scientists who are on this incredible mission to create a better food supply for people. And so they saw in us that we're doing the same thing. Our missions are totally aligned. Their skill sets complement hours that we don't have strict food scientists on our team now which is sort of its own field, separate from biochemistry. It's more like material science, and they're our main backer.


That's so interesting that your main backers of European company


Europeans air so forward thinking, I mean, there's so many brilliant European scientists, and Europe is doing so much to try and transform the food system that despite the regulatory mess, it sort of feels very natural. We are, at least at agriculture and science meet ups in Europe. Very popular. It's just the general populace that in general has a bit more trepidation about us.


Yeah, so I saw the labs. They're not. I wouldn't say they're industrial scale. No. So when you're talking about getting this out in the world by next year, how do you get there? Yes,


so we complete our indie phase around beginning of 2019. At that point, we have the cell lines that are robust enough and efficient enough to work. We have the media that's inexpensive enough to feed these cells. And we have our differentiation protocol, which turns these cells from things that can grow into things that people want to eat. And we also have our suspension protocol, which is getting these cells working in a large scale by a reactor. We then start talking to people who can do basically the equipment of contract brewing for beer. We don't plan on building our own facility. We plan on basically taking our materials and bringing them to already extent facilities and putting them in there. And from there it's basically just adapting the cells to larger and larger containers.


So in theory, I could, in the future, take a brewery tour. And there's like beer, beer, beer, fish.


Yep, and we absolutely plan on doing that. We want our facilities to be extremely transparent. This whole thing requires transparency in order to get people's trust it honestly, it'll be like a brewery tour if you're into breweries, which I absolutely am. I bring my own beer. It's super exciting if you don't care about it. It's incredibly boring. I've brought numerous states that I have bored to death in two breweries, and I think it'll be similar. Yeah, we really we really plan on, like scaling up. You know, our stuff right now is very small. There's only seven of us. Total full time in the beginning of 2019 will be raising our next round, at which point we'll be scaling up to, ah, larger staff that can deal with a larger facility.


Is there anything that keeps you up at night? Your biggest obstacle to actually becoming big fish Big B because


it's all about reducing costs, and that's everything for us, because we're sort of of this opinion that the two things that matter for this really are cost and taste. We are a group of scientists that are very firmly on a mission. We care about the environment, We care about animals. And so for us that sort of baked in. And it's just not as much of an issue, but cost and tastes. What will sell this? You know, we're not looking at a vegetarian market. We're not looking at a vegan market. Those are small. Those are people who are already basically doing what we want. You know, they're already not engaging in the practices that are harmful,

that we'd find harmful. This is about the normal person, you know. In normal people eat food based on cost and taste, and then some people eat food based on health. People are like, Well, nobody will go for this because it's science based. Nobody will go for this because it's it's technology and you know, people hate GMOs and this sounds like a GMO, even though it's not. But for you and I living in America, I think that statistic people need to be really wary of is that 80% of people say they don't want Jay Mo's in their food when they're pulled. Less than 1% of people shopped at whole foods and farmers markets. I think it's really important thing for people like me and like like us to remember, because we live in these large coastal cities. What percentage of your friend's shop at Whole Foods is it 100%? Because it basically is.


For me, it's not 100% just because so you seriously expensive, Yes, but I get


your point. Yeah, it's not 1%. Basically, it's not 100% for me, either. But it's close. You know, it's close enough that it's sort of scary. We're living in bubbles, you know. We live in areas of the country where people don't eat how the normal average person eats. And so you know, this idea of like, people hate biotechnology. This will never catch on. I think one of the people who put this the best is Bruce Friedrich, executive director of the Good Food Institute. He said, If this only catches on with 20% of people,


you've made


a massive difference. If just 20% or 10% of the population switches to this, it'll be huge. The oceans will be able to recover with just that much. That's sort of what We're what we're shooting for, at least at first. And we think that even if we just have a few early adopters, we can then prove that what we're doing is good and this will just become a normal technology like cheese. She's is very much about technology based. It's using fermentation. It's taking an animal product that has taken extremely unnaturally, we artificially in pregnant cows because they don't just produce milk, naturally, like a chicken. We take the milk from them and then we put it into a like a place where we wait with it in terms of bacteria. Take its course. We produce Renate using synthetic biology and genetic engineering.

And then we use that in order to create this delicious thing that's considered natural. That's considered healthy, and that's considered good for like, delicious, you know, Eventually, all technology becomes passe, and this will eventually be like that,


the beginning of the end of industrial agriculture, or at least ah, livestock.


I really hope so. I think in 100 years will look back at industrial animal agriculture and think we were total barbarians will just be shocked and appalled that we ever did anything like this. It's so inefficient. It's so bad for the environment. It's like how people now look at like a coal power plant or something is just like, Why are we even doing this? We totally have better options.


It's funny out. A few months ago, we interviewed the CEO plenty indoor farming. They are raising a bunch of different types of plants indoors, but they said they can make lettuce using 1% of the water that you would do so naturally. Just because there's no run off, there's no etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, which is It's amazing.


Plenty is impressive by tech in Japan is set to become the largest vegetable producer in Japan, and they do everything using into our farming. The world is moving this way. We're coming to another revolution in agriculture, and it's going to be a lot better for us. It's going to be extremely efficient when people talk about environmental problems. They're always talking about cars. They're always talking about power plants. But agriculture is a massive chunk of the problems that we have, environmentally. I mean, I think the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions, as far as I know his cows, Kalb. Herbs? Yeah, exactly.

Kalb herbs and cow farts. And it's just like, Why are we not focusing on this? This seems so big, and it's gotten to the point where, like I like roll my eyes and people talk about solar panels, which I really shouldn't be doing is it's extremely important. But I'm just like, Come on, we need to talk animal agriculture. We need to talk revamping the way that we eat first. And it seems like such a larger and more dire problem to me that I'm hoping the public consciousness ships on that. We move away from the idea of like electric cars, which we've sort of come to a standstill within a lot of ways and moved towards the idea of creating better food for people and creating food. That's not just better for people in a selfish way, but also better for everybody in a collective way, in an environmental way.


I agree, but it's a difficult task because it's almost like a personal the right to, you know, my cheeseburger is it's like an inmate in a alien noble right. It's like in the Bill of Rights, you know, it's just like people, right? Yeah, people feel so.


It's in the Constitution. You have to be able to have it easy. You know, that's why this technology is exciting. People can have their cheeseburgers and they can have it using this technology under fish away. Their environmental footprint will be so much lighter. It just won't matter. The idea of veganism vegetarianism will pretty much just become obsolete, because what's the point? If you're already producing this stuff using biotechnology, you could be eating that cheeseburger, and there's the potential for that cheeseburger to even have less of environmental impact in like a cashier or something. I mean, a bunch of cash is not one with this technology. We can really let people have their cake and eat it, too, and you're right.

Getting people to switch their eating habits is extraordinarily difficult. That's what we really like this. We're trying to make it so people don't have to really switch. They have to switch something minimal, but they're still getting the taste that they want. They're still getting the price that they want. They're still getting the nutrients that they're looking for. With this, we can provide all of at the same time


I look forward to the next taste test. Same experiment. Thank you. And that is all the time we have. Thank you for listening to another episode. Please do stop in the apple podcast. Take a moment, give a rating and review. It really does help. I really do appreciate it. So please keep those coming in. And in the meantime, of course, you can find me where I always am in the newspaper, The Sunday Times Online the times dot co dot UK on Twitter at Danny Forts in. Or you can email me at Danny dot forts and f o r T s 00 n. That Sunday hyping times dot co dot UK If you have any suggestions of subjects you want to hear people you'd like to be here to be interviewed. Any feedback is welcome. So until next week,

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