- Cell-based seafood maker Wildtype raised $100 million in a Series B funding round. It was led by L Catterton, and included participation from new investors Cargill, Bezos Expeditions, Temasek, S2G Ventures Ocean and Seafood Fund, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Downey Jr.'s Footprint Coalition. Several chefs and professional athletes, as well as existing investors Spark Capital and CRV, also participated.
- Wildtype will use these funds to expand its production capacity of cell-based sushi-grade salmon as it prepares for its U.S. launch. Since it was founded in 2016, Wildtype has raised more than $120 million.
- Wildtype is one of several companies working with the FDA as it moves toward comprehensive food safety and regulatory guidelines for seafood made by growing cells. Its combination production plant, tasting room and educational center went into operation last summer.
After marking 2021 with big announcements and agreements, Wildtype is starting 2022 with a huge infusion of cash that can help the company make a big splash.
By making sushi-grade salmon, Wildtype is highlighting two of the more promising aspects of the cell-based meat space. The finished product shows off the look and taste of cell-based meat — which is identical to that coming from an animal, but does not require the killing of one because it is produced through harvested cells. And as opposed to some seafood, there are no concerns about common environmental or antibiotic contaminants in Wildtype's cell-based salmon.
“This investment provides us with the capital necessary to dramatically expand our production capabilities to match the rapid growth in awareness and demand for cultivated seafood,” Wildtype Co-Founder and CEO Justin Kolbeck said in a written statement. “Whether you are looking for mercury and microplastic-free seafood options, or trying to eat more sustainably, we want Wildtype seafood to be accessible to as many people as possible. The enthusiastic support from our high-caliber group of investors will help us achieve this.”
The funding round brings in high profile investors. Meat and ingredients giant Cargill is making its first investment in Wildtype in this round. It has previously invested in other cell-based meat companies, including Upside Foods (previously known as Memphis Meats) and Aleph Farms. The investment round also brings in some star power, with actor Robert Downey Jr.'s Footprint Coalition making its first investment in cell-based meat. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, a frequent investor and sometimes advisory board member for sustainable food and ingredients companies, also put money toward the cell-based seafood company.
“Wild fish populations are threatened more than ever before,” DiCaprio said in a written statement. “Wildtype is the clear leader in cultivated seafood, which will give us the chance to protect our oceans while creating the cleanest seafood on the planet. Wildtype will surely transform our food system with its incredible salmon.”
Wildtype's demonstration-scale plant in San Francisco's Dogpatch neighborhood was among the first cultivated meat production facilities to start operation in the United States. The plant is 7,700 square feet — about the size of a microbrewery, the company has said — and was built in an industrial building in the middle of a neighborhood to show that cell-based production facilities can be located relatively close to the businesses they serve. When it opened, it was configured to make 50,000 pounds of seafood a year, but the facility's maximum capacity is more than 200,000 pounds a year.
While this is a bigger facility for making cell-based seafood than most currently in existence, Wildtype has its eye on even greater expansion. The release announcing the latest funding round says the company plans its initial launch at yet-to-be named fine dining restaurants, but it already has large distribution partnerships in place. In December, Wildtype announced agreements with grocery store sushi bar operator Snowfox and fast casual restaurant operator Pokéworks. Snowfox currently operates in 1,230 grocery locations nationwide, and Pokéworks currently has more than 60 locations. It's not clear what the timeline may be for these rollouts, but it is apparent that a plant making 200,000 pounds a year isn't enough to meet this demand.
This is the latest mega funding round in the cultivated meat space, following nine-digit investment rounds in the past year for Future Meat Technologies, Aleph Farms and Eat Just's Good Meat. And although cell-based meat of any kind has only received regulatory approval in Singapore, the recent action in the space — investment dollars, plant construction, distribution partnerships, M&A activity and regulatory oversight — shows that many entities expect the day that these products will become more widely available to come in the near future.