The team at Wanda Fish Technologies. Photo: Wanda Fish Technologies
Author profile picture

About Wanda Fish Technologies

  • Founders: Daphna Heffetz and The Kitchen FoodTech Hub
  • Founded in: 2021
  • Employees: -
  • Money raised: $3million in a pre-seed round. The company plans to initiate its seed round in a couple of months
  • Ultimate goal: Have the capability to produce a whole range of affordable, tasty, and nutritious fish fillets offered to people wherever they are while contributing to the sustainability of the environment for future generations.

Overfishing is a huge problem in the seafood industry, but researchers might have found a solution. What if the fish could be produced sustainably through bioreactors? Wanda Fish Technologies seeks to do exactly this.

The newly started Israeli company promises cultivated fish free from harm and devoid of toxins, chemicals, and microplastics. They are currently working to develop their first fish filet prototype. CEO Daphna Heffetz hopes that by growing seafood in bioreactors, we can enjoy fish dishes produced more sustainably. Meanwhile, endangered fish species can continue to thrive in the oceans, she tells in this episode of start-up-of-the-day. 

Cultivated fish production follows a roadmap similar to that of cultivated meat, although there are some technological differences between and within the two categories. For example, cultivated fish can be produced at lower temperatures, and it has a high omega 3 fatty acid composition. 

How exactly does the cultivation process work?

“The first step is a single, one-time sample of a real native fish muscle and fat tissues. The next steps are the replication of the biological growth of fish, with the nutritional attributes, including protein and omega 3 content, as well as the flavor and textural properties.

This entire process uses the following integrated elements: appropriate cell types from the tissue of interest, a growth serum-free media to provide nutrients to proliferating and differentiating cells, and a bioreactor to provide the closed environment to support the growth.

For three-dimensional tissues, a biocompatible plant-based scaffold would be needed to provide structure for cell growth and maturation.”

What are the main challenges of cultivating seafood, and how can you overcome these challenges?

“Lack of a relevant cell source, serum-free media composition and cost, and scale-up production. To overcome this the company should develop the above by itself or/and by using outside contractors when needed.”

Are there any limitations to what types of seafood products can be cultivated?

“The field of cultivated seafood is young and is mainly developed by private companies. Therefore, there is not sufficient public data on this topic. I believe that in time more data will be available mainly from academic sources.”

Israel hosts several start-ups cultivating seafood. In what ways does Wanda Fish differ from other start-ups?

“Cultivated meat & seafood companies, including the Israeli ones, basically share a generic product roadmap. Each company has its own strategy and unique technological characteristics under such a roadmap. Wanda Fish’s strategy is to develop a high-end product, both in the selected fish species and its product characteristic: thick fish fillet, native fat, and muscles fish originating directly from the fish itself. We can do this due to our innovative platform backed by patent applications and multidisciplinary, long-term know-how.

Our platform includes know-how in stem cells, animal-free growing medium, producing native muscle and fat tissues, and specially customized bioreactors that will allow us to scale production and eventually bring our cultured fish products to cost parity with conventionally fished counterparts.”

How long will it take before cultivated seafood reaches supermarkets?

“Currently, there are no commercial products on the market. I think that limited commercialization will start via restaurants. It will take a while until reaching grocery stores.”

What has been your biggest success so far?

“As a young company we focus on bringing a high-end product rapidly into the market. We have established, in parallel, top notch multidisciplinary R&D teams; Wanda Fish led by Dr. Malkiel Cohen, and as well as through Exclusive Licensing and Sponsored Research Agreements with prof. Kaplan at Tufts University in Boston. The teams have already made significant headway in developing their first prototype of a fish filet directly from fish cells.”