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🔑 Key Takeaways

  1. Stem cell technology has the potential to revolutionize meat production by addressing moral, health, and environmental concerns, and bringing together individuals from diverse backgrounds for a positive impact on food production.
  2. By connecting with others deeply, remaining open to new ideas, and nurturing relationships, we can create unexpected and impactful opportunities for positive change.
  3. Great ideas can emerge from unexpected places, and open-minded discussions can lead to groundbreaking innovations that address pressing global issues such as sustainability and animal welfare.
  4. Wild Type's founders recognized the unsustainability and ethical concerns of traditional meat production, leading them to explore and develop cell-based salmon as a more environmentally friendly alternative.
  5. Aryé Elfenbein and Justin Kolbeck's commitment to sustainability led them to shift their focus from niche markets to widely consumed foods like seafood, aiming to make a positive impact on the environment.
  6. The seafood industry is facing sustainability and contamination issues, leading to the exploration of lab-grown alternatives. However, creating a viable and tasty product is a complex process, highlighting the need for further research and development.
  7. Cultivated salmon offers the advantage of no waste, but achieving a high-quality product that resembles raw salmon required balancing quick demonstrations with iterative improvements. The promising start indicates future potential.
  8. Wild type successfully creates a product that closely resembles real salmon in taste, texture, and presentation, using a complex process that takes only four to six weeks.
  9. Perseverance and learning from failures are crucial in overcoming challenges and achieving success in the journey from lab research to running a business.
  10. Amid pressure for profits, Aryé Elfenbein and Justin Kolbeck strive to provide a sustainable seafood alternative to address declining biodiversity and ecosystem impact, valuing feedback to improve their offering.
  11. Cultivated seafood offers a promising solution to increase choice and sustainability in the seafood industry, without replacing traditional fishing or farming methods.

📝 Podcast Summary

Creating Meat Without Killing Animals - The Potential of Stem Cell Technology

Advances in stem cell technology are bringing us closer to a future where we can create meat without killing animals. This is highlighted by companies like wild type foods, which is growing real salmon from real salmon cells to produce sushi-grade fish. By cultivating meat in this way, we can address the moral, health, and environmental concerns associated with traditional livestock production and overfishing. Cell-cultivated meats have the potential to become just as common as plant-based substitutes in the near future. This innovation brings together individuals from diverse backgrounds, like a cardiologist and a former state department employee, who are passionate about making a positive impact on food production.

The Power of Nurturing Connections and Embracing Diverse Perspectives

Opportunity can arise unexpectedly when we connect deeply with others and remain open to new ideas. Aryé Elfenbein and Justin Kolbeck both found themselves at career crossroads, seeking purpose and impact beyond their original paths. Through chance encounters and genuine connections, they discovered a shared passion for creating positive change. Their friendship blossomed, leading to the formation of a business that aimed to address pressing global challenges. This highlights the importance of nurturing relationships and embracing diverse perspectives, as they can ignite sparks of innovation and lead to unexpected collaborations. By staying open-minded and fostering meaningful connections, we increase our chances of finding purposeful opportunities and making a significant impact on the world around us.

From Fun Brainstorms to Revolutionary Innovation: The Story of Wild Type

Sometimes great ideas can stem from seemingly unrelated and silly discussions. When Aryé and Justin set out to brainstorm a hundred business ideas for fun, they had no intention of starting a company. However, as they heard each other's thoughts and passions, the less viable ideas fell away, leaving behind a spark of something they both deeply cared about. This eventually led them to create their company, Wild Type, which focuses on cultivating meat without the need for animal slaughter. It was during a vacation and deep reflection on modern agriculture and sustainability that Aryé had the initial idea, not knowing that others were already working on similar concepts. This highlights the power of open-mindedness and the unexpected pathways that can lead to groundbreaking innovations.

Creating Sustainable Cultivated Meat: Wild Type's Journey

The founders of Wild Type were driven to create cultivated meat due to a combination of environmental, ethical, and economic concerns. They recognized that the current system of meat and seafood production is unsustainable and has significant impacts on the planet. They felt conflicted about consuming animal products and wanted to find an alternative solution. Through their research and understanding of the food system, they realized the potential of cell-based meat to address these issues. They initially considered various meats and seafood, but ultimately focused on salmon, given its texture and cell type. Their journey highlights the need for individuals and society as a whole to reconsider our consumption habits and seek more sustainable alternatives.

From Cultured Cells to Sustainable Seafood: Making a Meaningful Difference

Aryé Elfenbein and Justin Kolbeck realized that to truly make a positive impact on the environment, they needed to focus on creating a sustainable food source that many people consume. Initially, they experimented with creating foie gras from cultured cells, but they soon understood that their mission was bigger than just catering to a niche market. They shifted their attention to seafood, understanding that it was a widely consumed product with potential for environmental improvement. They rented lab space in San Francisco and conducted research on the optimal conditions for growing seafood cells. This dedication to finding sustainable solutions for widely consumed foods highlights their commitment to making a meaningful difference.

The Challenges of Sustainable Seafood and the Rise of Lab-Grown Alternatives

The seafood industry is facing significant challenges in terms of sustainability and contamination. Overfishing and the presence of microplastics, mercury, antibiotics, and parasites in seafood have become major concerns. The demand for seafood continues to rise, while wild fish populations are declining and fish farms face their own set of issues. This confluence of factors is making it increasingly difficult for people to access nutritious seafood. In response, scientists are exploring alternatives such as lab-grown seafood. However, developing a viable and tasty product is a complex process that requires organizing cells into structures and replicating the textures and flavors of traditional seafood. This highlights the long road ahead in creating a sustainable and satisfying seafood option.

Creating Cultured Salmon: From Vision to Promising Start

Aryé Elfenbein and Justin Kolbeck's journey to create cultured salmon revealed two fundamental questions: whether they could produce a high-quality product and whether it could scale into a significant business. Through their first year of experimenting, they became more convinced that their vision could be achieved. One major advantage they discovered was that around half of a fish's weight is discarded as waste, while their cultivated salmon had no waste. However, creating a product that tasted good and resembled raw salmon was a challenge. They had to balance the need to quickly demonstrate the product's potential with the necessity of iterating and perfecting it over time. When they finally debuted their raw salmon sashimi, people were impressed, despite its high price, signaling a promising start.

Improving the Texture and Presentation of Wild Type Salmon

The early versions of wild type salmon didn't have the same visual appeal and structure as traditional salmon. The taste was there, but the product lacked the desired texture and presentation. This was acknowledged by a reporter from Bloomberg who described the unadorned fish as reminiscent of fish in the ocean, but faint. However, the co-founders of wild type knew that they had the potential to create a product that closely resembled real salmon. The process from cell to piece of salmon takes about four to six weeks, much faster than traditional salmon. The final product goes through a complex process of growth on scaffold structures to achieve the desired textures and flavors. Despite not looking like a typical salmon initially, the range of flavors, aromas, and textures developed by wild type can closely mirror those of real salmon.

The journey from lab research to running a business is complex and filled with challenges. Aryé Elfenbein and Justin Kolbeck faced subjective assessments in creating salmon with the desired flavor and appearance, seeking the expertise of chefs to guide them. Moving from the lab to a business required a complimentary skillset and division of roles. They compared themselves to a music analogy, with Justin handling financial modeling and Aryé leading the scientific research. However, entrepreneurship is not without its difficulties, and they had to cope with moments when things went wrong. For instance, a three-month setback occurred when a mistake in assembling a vessel caused stability issues and potential cell culture contamination. Despite the setbacks, perseverance and learning from failures are key in finding success.

Gratitude and Urgency: Transitioning to Sustainable Seafood Production for Investor Expectations and Oceans' Perils

Aryé Elfenbein and Justin Kolbeck feel a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation towards their investors, as they understand the pressure to bring a return on investment. They are driven to transition from an R&D company to a food production one, not only to fulfill their investors' expectations but also because of the urgency to address the perils facing our oceans. The decline in biodiversity and the impact on ecosystems is a pressing issue, emphasized by the decline of salmon runs over just a few decades. While the pressure to generate profits may have unintended consequences, the mission to provide a sustainable seafood alternative becomes even more imperative with limited time to make a positive change. Despite the inability to sell their products yet, they value the feedback from tastings to improve their offering.

Cultivated Seafood: Expanding Choices for Sustainable Consumption

The future of seafood consumption could include cultivated seafood alongside wild-caught and farmed options. The founders of wild type foods are working towards FDA approval for their cultivated seafood, which could include prized and rare fish like bluefin tuna. They have already received interest from early commercial partners and are in talks with major grocery chains. The goal is not to replace traditional fishing or farming methods, but to provide more choice and sustainability in seafood. This would also bring greater traceability and transparency to the seafood industry. Ultimately, the founders envision a future where consumers can choose between wild-caught, farmed, or cultivated seafood depending on their preferences.