Saving the Salish Sea
Indoor production of cultivated salmon and produce fosters the restoration of our oceans, builds resilience, and improves our health.
Lead Applicant Organization Name
Lead Applicant Organization Type
Small company (under 50 employees)
Website of Legally Registered Entity
How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?
Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?
Seattle, WA & San Francisco, CA
Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?
United States of America
Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?
The Salish Sea, an approximately 100,000km^2 area, of which 18,000km^2 is saltwater and the rest is land and drainage basin.
What country is your selected Place located in?
United States of America and Canada
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
The Salish Sea is one of the defining features of the Cascadia region of North America. Major bodies of water include the Strait of Georgia, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Johnstone Strait, Hood Canal, Desolation Sound, linking the south tip of Puget Sound to the inside passages between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia. All of these waterways lead to the Pacific Ocean and form a single estuarine ecosystem.
The region is of great personal significance to us at Wild Type. Justin Kolbeck, CEO, lives in Seattle with his family, and Ben Friedman, Wild Type’s Head of Product, grew up salmon fishing in the Salish Sea and its tributaries. Ben developed a lifelong connection to salmon and a deep understanding of the cultural and industrial heritage they represent in this region. His dad, who will turn 70 next year, tells stories of catching 15kg Chinook as a kid right off the downtown Seattle waterfront in Elliott Bay. No one has seen fish that big - or many fish at all - in these waters for decades.
Salmonids are a keystone species in the Salish Sea, meaning they have an outsized effect on their natural environment relative to their abundance. They are in steep decline due to overfishing, habitat loss, the genetic consequences of the hatchery system, and the impacts of local aquaculture installations. Wild Type is a cellular agriculture company on a mission to create the cleanest, most sustainable fish on the planet, starting with salmon.
We’re working to develop seafood products to alleviate the environmental and health concerns stemming from depleted wild fish stocks, aquaculture, and deteriorating ocean health. Home to both native salmon and high concentrations of aquaculture installations, the food system of the Salish Sea is ripe for reimagining.
Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.
Decorated paddles of a Lummi canoe
Maps of the Salish Sea region
Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community
Commercial salmon fishermen
Fish throwing at Seattle's Pike Place Market, the city's most famous marketplace for fresh seafood
Smoking salmon over cedar wood in the traditional method of the First Nations and Native American peoples
The Salish Sea is an ecologically sensitive coastal ecosystem that is characterized by high rates of precipitation and significant marine biodiversity, including the endangered Southern Resident Orca. It is also the focal point of many social, political, economic, and environmental issues. For example, there have been legal battles over the environmental threats of coal terminals, new regulations limiting the noise impacts of large shipping freighters on whale populations, and the risks that net-pen aquaculture pose to native wild salmon and their habitat.
At the intersection of all these issues, the Salish Sea represents the inherent tension between an ecologically sensitive ecosystem and the vibrant economic centers like Vancouver, B.C. and Seattle, WA that have demanded resources through extraction. The ample water that was once the lifeblood of our region is becoming increasingly polluted along with our food.
Salmon have been a major part of life in the Pacific Northwest since indigenous peoples settled these lands over ten thousand years ago. A reliance on salmon as a food source and a utilization of the bounty of marine biodiversity has been a hallmark of life in the Salish since its first settlement. Today, all our cities and towns are located on lands that once belonged to Native American and First Nations peoples. They shared both the abundance of seafood and their cultural heritage with the first European settlers. Many of their traditional foods, such as salmon smoked over cedar wood, remain cultural symbols in the Salish Sea to this day.
The Salish Sea is in transition. Our wild salmon fishery is in collapse; it would be considered commercially un-fishable without hatchery systems. There has been a 60% reduction in Chinook populations since we began tracking salmon data in 1984. “It’s been dismal... for all the fishers and for many of those companies that depend on that,” said Guy Dean, CEO of Ocean Organic, a local commercial fishing company. Aquaculture continues to contaminate our sensitive coastal waterways with pesticides, antibiotics, drug-resistant parasites, high concentrations of excrement, and fish farm escapees.
Shellfish farms that make up the other side of our local aquaculture industry, make the water cleaner because bivalves strain seawater for food and don't require unsustainable supplements to their diets, like fishmeal or oil.
Historically, forestry has been the other dominant agricultural product in the region, with over 10 million acres under management in Western Washington alone.
What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)
What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
The challenges facing our 2020 food system in the Salish Sea link our environmental impact, diets, economy, culture, technology, and policy:
Harvest represents total catch from sporting anglers, commercial and native fishermen, and salmon farms (aquaculture). We are overfishing and dependent hatcheries.
Habitat destruction is the contamination and reduction of fresh and saltwater areas where salmon live, stemming from river dams, agricultural and industrial chemical runoff, and the changing weather patterns affecting oceanic conditions, like the “warm blob” event in 2013-2016 that decimated salmon populations. Marine habitats are also contaminated by trace metals like mercury, pharmaceuticals, and microplastics such that all of our seafood now test positive for these human-caused pollutants. Hydroelectricity requires damming rivers, which block salmon from completing their life cycle and significantly shrinks their habitat chances of population recovery.
Depleted wild stocks are jeopardizing the future of commercial fishing and job growth. In Washington, fishing generates revenues of $9.4 billion, employing over 14,000 people with wages higher than the state average.
Hatcheries boost native salmon populations despite studies showing they reduce genetic diversity and resilience in wild environments. Hatchery fish weigh less than native fish, meaning more fish are needed to feed the same number of people. Taxpayers fund the hatcheries and are effectively subsidizing a troubled industry; in one study, salmon were found to cost local taxpayers $68,000 per individual fish.
Aquaculture, which requires antibiotics and pesticides, is another challenge. In 2020, two thirds of our salmon come from aquaculture. The open-water pens impact wild salmon with drug resistant parasites and escapee events, such as the 263,000 Atlantic salmon that escaped from pens near Cypress Island in 2017. The negative externalities of aquaculture are incurred by the environment and risks to human health. In 2050, the systems that support salmon aquaculture and wild salmon capture will be even more dangerous for our health and more environmentally unconscionable than they are today.
Urbanization and growth challenges the whole region. Seattle is growing 2.3 times faster than the US national average. Tech firms like Amazon and Microsoft are transforming the urban population as the information economy balloons and enduring blue-collar jobs disappear. Urban sprawl has caused the loss of farmland in a trend that has led Americans to import half of their fruit and a third of their vegetables from other countries.
Intensive Agriculture is contaminating our farmland, waterways and our bodies with toxic chemicals like neonicotinoids, that destroy bee populations and cause cancer and birth defects. Non-regenerative farming practices are stripping soil, which stores 3.5 times more carbon than all the world’s trees and plants combined.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
Our vision is to restore the Salish Sea’s ecosystem by introducing a regenerative, localized, and low-cost source of seafood. Cellular agriculture allows us to grow genuine salmon meat directly from salmon cells, just as they would grow within a live salmon, and eliminates the need to catch or farm salmon.
Harvest, Habitat, Depleted Wild Stocks, Hatcheries & Aquaculture
While these five challenges are deeply nuanced, they can be grouped together when discussing the potential of cultivated salmon.
Shifting production to cellular agriculture alleviates the environmental and health concerns stemming from overfishing, aquaculture, and depleted wild stocks. We are developing land-based, brewery-style production facilities that will keep salmon on our plates as a healthy food source for all our community members, while maintaining the cultural and industrial heritage of the Salish Sea.
Local production of cultivated salmon will provide consumers with a third option, one that is free from contaminants and addresses many of the ecological shortcomings of both wild-catch and farmed salmon. It will allow the people living around the Salish Sea to maintain our food culture without depleting the resource that defines it.
New means of production will allow demand for both wild and farmed salmon to decline, and wild salmon populations to rebound. The coastal ecosystems that once housed net-pen aquaculture operations can rehabilitate. The jobs, food production, and economic development from wild-capture and aquaculture will shift to the new cleaner means of production. Hatcheries will be able to ramp down production, improving the genetic health of native salmon populations and reducing harmful competition between hatchery and native fish. Our new land-based seafood industry will keep the seafood revenue in our region and create safer, less extractive jobs.
We will seek to expand shellfish aquaculture to increase the cleansing impact that bivalves have on the environment. We envision a low-carbon industry that will require less energy and support dam removal and habitat restoration. This food system will safeguard our waters from the pollutants that are rampant today and it will treat wild marine life like we treat wild land animals - as a cherished resource that we must protect.
Urbanization & Intensive Agriculture
We plan to repurpose the urbanization challenge as an opportunity. Alongside our cultivated salmon facilities, we envision other indoor farming operations that support reducing both food miles and chemical use through the introduction of closed-system hydroponic farming localized in dense urban population centers. Vertical farming technologies allow us to move beyond intensive agriculture just as cultivated salmon provides relief to wild fish stocks.
High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.
In 2050 the Salish Sea will be a hub of sustainable food production, centered on a reimagined seafood industry. The food system combines cultivated seafood, indoor farming, bivalve aquaculture, and circular economic principles for a net positive impact on the region. Wild salmon have steadily climbed back towards pre-industrial peak populations. Our seas and rivers run cleaner and freer than they were in 2020, when aquaculture and agricultural runoff contaminated waterways and dams withheld thousands of miles of salmon habitat from native fish seeking to return home. Solar and wind farms have supplanted hydroelectricity as the clean power source for the region. The new low-carbon, urbanized agricultural sector has brought safer food and safer, high-paying blue-collar jobs and helped reduce the economic disparities that exist today.
The people who live around the Salish Sea are healthier: they are consuming seafood and produce that are cleaner than their 2020 options and they are living in an ecosystem that is re-wilding and rebounding in a post-extractive economy.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
Escape events and increasing worry about disease transfer to wild salmon have caused legal battles with the aquaculture industry
The drastic decline of local salmon populations
Around the Salish Sea, grocery stores have stopped carrying some local fish due to population declines
We envision creating innovative salmon products that keeps salmon on our plates and in the water
Our Wild Type lox on an everything bagel with the works
To feed the global population as it grows from 7.7 billion today to 9.7 billion in 2050, without asking people to substantially change their eating habits and cultures, we will need to radically change how we produce our food. To craft our vision, we talked to commercial fishermen, vertical farming companies, sporting anglers, restaurateurs, and conservationists. We’ve considered the many stakeholders, from rural indigenous communities to urban consumers to commercial fishermen and the aquaculture industry.
We are choosing to launch our cellular agriculture technology with salmon because of popularity among consumers and their tremendous ecological and cultural importance in our region. We see our company as one piece of an evolving Salish Sea food system. As populations urbanize in the major metropolitan areas, we envision our food system urbanizing, too. Our technology will revolutionize seafood production. Similar companies will do the same with cultivated mammalian meats and indoor produce farming. Not only does this shift in production create economic opportunity, it also produces healthier foods and serves to lower the carbon footprint of food production and distribution; this is accomplished by reducing food miles and soil erosion. Keeping salmon on our plates in the Salish Sea helps preserve our culture, especially our healthy, traditional diet. The advancement of these technologies will help us create a more environmentally and socially just food system in 2050.
Salmon have played a central role in the Salish Sea food system for the last 12 millennia. Our vision maintains their influence in the region, and how they connect different people and places. They are anadromous, meaning they divide their lives between freshwater and the ocean. Through their decaying bodies after spawning in their home waters at the end of their lives, they deliver vital nutrients taken from the ocean far upstream to inland forests. It’s just one of the many reasons they are labeled a keystone species, meaning that in their environment, they hold the entire ecosystem together. Salmon are a crucial link between apex predators like Orca whales, the plankton at the bottom of the marine food chain and the diverse flora and fauna everywhere in between.
Salmon also play a critical role in our modern lives all around the Salish Sea, linking our environment, diet, economics, culture, technology and policy. Our 2050 vision retains salmon as the heart of our industrial and cultural lives, but this 21st century chapter in the story of salmon is one that brings health back to our people and to our wild lands. Our technology delivers the health benefits of removing contaminants from seafood and produces protein-rich meat products for a healthier diet that is lower in saturated fats and higher in LDL-reducing fats.
Like conventional meat production, fish farming is environmentally destructive. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides pollute our waterways, our bodies and our waters. The technologies that enable cultivated meat and indoor produce farming utilize closed systems that allow us to eliminate the pervasive negative inputs and externalities of our current food system. Our vision pairs our cultivated salmon technology with vertical farming companies in the produce space, such as Plenty, Bowery and AeroFarms. As these companies scale their technologies in close proximity to urban centers, they will be transformational for the Salish Sea food system.
Today, families who have made their livelihoods from conventional farming and commercial fishing are pushing their kids to look for different work as conventional farming becomes more mechanized and wild fisheries continue to plummet. New indoor farming technologies, like ours and adjacent vertical produce farms, offer better jobs to those leaving the extractive jobs of the 20th century food system. They will also be less susceptible to the impacts of the climate crisis and they will create dynamic economic opportunity zones near city centers.
Our vision for 2050 not only seeks to produce healthier food and drastically reduce the use of toxic contaminants in our seafood, meat and produce production, but also to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the agricultural sector. We recognize that it will be impossible to meet our environmental goals if we only offer plant-based substitutes to consumers. Our vision synthesizes these new technologies to keep produce, fish and meat on our plates, but offers a radically greener means of production.
Increased aquaculture of bivalves will help reverse the 20th century contamination of our waters. Once eaten, their shells can be added to compost systems as a byproduct to improve soil nutrition for produce farming, increasing the circular nature of our economy. Decreased vessel traffic and pollution associated with the reduction in commercial fishing fleets will also help restore the marine ecosystem, as well as reduce noise impacts on marine mammals.
In 2020, scarcity of wild fish drives prices higher and makes aquaculture more affordable. Revolutionary cultivated meat technology will allow us to undercut the pricing power of destructive fish farms and allow the favorable economics to propel the market towards a greener, harm-free food system. No animals will have to die to feed humans, eliminating the dependence on ethically compromised fishing, factory farms, and aquaculture. Investing in cellular agriculture and vertical farming helps eliminate the need for intensive commercial fishing and fish farming and reduces our dependency on hatcheries, intensive agricultural practices, and chemicals. Scaling these technologies will lead to the restoration of our waterways, marine biodiversity, and healthier communities.
Achieving our 2050 vision will require a systems-focused approach, which will bring with it enormous policy implications. For starters, food safety agencies and local governments must develop rigorous frameworks to regulate this new industry to ensure that our food is safe to produce and eat. There will also be policy decisions concerning marketing and labeling cultivated meat in order to help educate and empower consumers. Policymakers must also place value on the negative externalities of conventional food production, so the environmental degradation and human health impacts are reflected in prices. Subsidies must be retooled in favor of technologies that are healthier for people and the planet.
Such policymaking would make organic, hydroponic and cellular agriculture more price competitive against incumbents, once the full cost of conventional agricultural products are made transparent. We also need our policymakers to address the environmental consequences of hydroelectric dams, aquaculture, overfishing and hatcheries. Policies that prioritize environmental stewardship and conservation will help our vision become a reality. Additionally, policies that incentivize community-rooted approaches, like recruiting native and commercial fishermen into this new industry’s workforce, to developing our vision will ensure that equity and preservation of place and culture play a central role in achieving our 2050 vision.
There are a number of other challenges we face in the realization of our vision. Despite depleted wild fish stocks, commercial fishing corporations lobby for increased hatchery production and wild-capture quotas. The incumbent meat industry is pushing laws through state legislatures to make it more challenging for cultivated meat producers to market their products, and these efforts will contribute to skepticism among consumers about the quality and safety of cultivated meat. Overcoming the hurdles of consumer psychology around a new kind of meat production will also be a major challenge. But perhaps the biggest threat we face is lack of investment and time. In order to stave off the worst impacts of the climate crisis, we need to act now. It will take years of technological development and billions of dollars to scale up these new means of meat and produce production. Every dollar and every minute counts.
In the Salish Sea, salmon is the centerpiece of our food culture and our vision keeps it that way. Ultimately it comes down to the notion that saving native salmon is inextricably linked to saving our culture and environment. The transformative potential of our vision will make the Salish Sea a model for the rest of the world to follow. A systems-focused approach will be required to transform our policy landscape so that our new economic development is equitable and rooted in community, so that the revenue and jobs leaving the extractive incumbent industries stay in our community, so that we can re-wild our rivers and forests while still being an economic leader in our current industries, and so that we can bring a keystone species back from the brink of extinction to once again symbolize the culture of the Salish Sea.
How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?
Describe how your Vision developed over the course of the Refinement Phase.
We developed our vision through a deeper understanding of futurecasting, one that is unencumbered by current forces and conditions. We also expanded outreach to new stakeholders from across our community for greater thought-partnership and breadth of perspectives. Insights from these partners refined the connections between the various elements of our vision. For example, if moving away from hydroelectricity is required to restore natural salmon habitat, new policies and alternative energy systems will be required to meet the region’s rising energy needs.
We also embedded a deeper historical lens, connecting 2020 food system signals and trends back to their harbingers in the last few decades. The impact of mercury contamination on the canned tuna industry, for example, may portend that contamination trends in 2020, like microplastics, will have similar influence on future consumer behavior across the seafood industry.
Please provide the names of all organizations you meaningfully partnered with to develop this latest version of your Vision (they contributed at least 10 hours of time to the Vision development during the Refinement Phase).
While our vision was community co-created and developed through close thought-partnerships with many people and organizations across the food industry and other relevant sectors, these partners spent less than 10 hours helping us shape our vision during this Refinement Phase. This was due in part to COVID-19's impact on our community
Three people inside Wildtype’s organization spent 10 hours or more on our vision: Justin Kolbeck (CEO), Aryé Elfenbein (Chief Scientist), and Ben Friedman (Head of Product).
Describe the specific steps you took during the Refinement phase to include different stakeholders to develop your Vision, including a description (age, profile, and total number) of the stakeholders engaged, and how you engaged with each.
It is paramount that our vision for 2050 is informed and guided by our community. During this phase we conducted interviews with a broad range of stakeholders and expanded our vision team with eleven new members:
Joel Gamoran, 35, Founder, Brown Banana: discussed culinary trends and the future of seafood.
Kris Goddard, 38, Public-Private Partnership Manager, City of Bellevue: discussed public-private partnerships to retrain workers displaced by disruptive technology.
Iris Kemp, 31, Fisheries Research Biologist, Long Live The Kings: discussed salmon conservation.
Jen Lamy, 29, Sustainable Seafood Initiative Manager, GFI: discussed how plant and cell-based seafood will improve ocean health.
Dave McFadden, Managing Director, Economic Development, Port of Seattle: discussed maritime entrepreneurship and economic development.
John Melas-Kyriazi, 32, Spark Capital (and Wildtype investor): discussed his excitement for mission-driven business and how being a futurist informs strategic investment.
Adam Rosen, 34, Portfolio Manager, Alco Investment Company: discussed impact of rapid technology sector growth on local real estate.
Steve Rosen, 53, Co-Founder of Bittyfish (a new Seattle-area sushi restaurant): discussed consumer trends in the sushi industry.
Florencia Vasta, 34, Senior Associate, Food Policy and Finance, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN): contextualized the impact of higher levels of CO2 on our nutrition as a result of the climate crisis.
Shuo Zhai, 34, Architect, Gehry Partners LLC, discussed the implications of new technologies in a variety of cultural contexts. He also provided significant guidance around urban planning and architectural design.
Isha Datar (late 20s), New Harvest: Worked together on visualizing cellular agriculture technology.
Kristopher Gasteratos (late 20s): Cellular Agriculture Society - worked together to refine visuals.
What signals and trends did you draw from to inform your Vision? Please provide data or examples that back up each signal or trend.
Ocean degradation signals help us reimagine what our seas and oceans could look like in 2050 absent urgent action. The UN Sustainable Development Goals set life below water as a priority (#14). In 1978, 92% of fish stocks were within biologically sustainable levels. By 2017, that level had fallen to only 66%. In the Salish Sea, jellyfish populations have increased, while the forage fish that nurture salmon populations have fallen. Without a new source of fish, we simply may not have access to many nutritious seafoods in the future.
We also found a signal in the US nationwide recall of canned tuna when a chemistry professor in New York City found excess levels of mercury in 1970. This event led to an enduring link between our food system and environmental contamination in the minds of consumers. According to USDA studies, American consumption of tuna has declined 42% over the past 30 years as a result of the environmental and health issues associated with these species. Similar to what we’ve seen with mercury over the last 50 years, we expect public awareness of microplastic contamination to significantly influence consumer behavior across the seafood industry. We believe that this increased awareness will be a key driver of market performance in the cellular agriculture industry.
Health concerns have driven consumer trends in food. A key signal we identified is a recent study promoted by the World Wildlife Fund citing that American consumers ingest approximately 2,000 pieces of microplastic every week, or about 5 grams: the same amount of plastic in a credit card. The increased awareness that our natural world is contaminated will drive consumers toward contaminant-free offerings. This will be a boon for the cellular agriculture industry, which seeks to grow seafood and meat directly from cells, eliminating animals from the production process. This trend will accelerate as crises such as COVID-19 and African Swine Fever disrupt our food supply chain.
Over the last 30 years, consumers have trended towards environmentally-friendly products and diets, which also informed our vision for 2050. The growth of certified organic products is an obvious trend, alive and well in 2020, marking consumer health and environmental concern over pesticides and other agricultural chemicals. We believe increased consumer awareness of the loss of biodiversity in the oceans will shift consumer behavior away from eating wild species, which have been prized over farmed fish, especially in market segments associated with salmon. We expect this trend to extend to fish farms by 2050, as more people view net pen aquaculture as a threat to biodiversity and sensitive coastal ecosystems. One signal shaping our views on a changing attitude against aquaculture was the 2017 collapse of Cooke Aquaculture's net pens off Washington state's Cypress Island when more than 263,000 farmed Atlantic salmon escaped, contaminating the homewaters of protected native Pacific salmon.
Describe a “Day in the Life” of a key food system actor within your food system in 2050 (e.g., farmer, chef, supply chain actor, food policy actor, etc.).
We partnered with the Cellular Agriculture Society to imagine what our Seattle fishery could look like in 2050.
At 8:45am on a rainy Thursday morning in the “SODO” neighborhood of Seattle, WA, Christina Villaseñor arrives at Wildtype’s fishery. As fishery manager, she’s responsible for a team of 90 that includes production, quality assurance, and distribution specialists. Christina works typical hours for a desk job, which is remarkable given the early morning routines of seafood producers and fishmongers that were customary until just a few decades ago.
The first thing she does each morning is check all the safety and equipment logs from yesterday’s evening cleaning. The brewery-like facility is 200,000 square feet and the most impressive area contains the large fermentation tanks where the different types of cells are grown. The tanks are ten stories tall and this fishery can produce enough seafood to serve 15 million households. Pleased with the sanitation, Christina gives her production manager the green light to begin production, starting with harvesting meat and portioning different cuts for restaurants and grocery stores. Distributors for the different sales channels submit their orders by 5pm the day before. Fulfilling them would be quite stressful if the process wasn’t expediently managed by a purpose-built software solution that is connected to sensors throughout the plant measuring everything from ambient temperature to microbial data.
After a lunch break, consisting of a Wildtype salmon sushi roll, Christina meets with each of her team leads to review sales and production goals. Her afternoon involves overseeing the packaging of over 1 million pounds of fresh salmon, or about a quarter of what the US consumes every day. She knows it’s a staggering figure and takes product safety, especially at this production volume, extremely seriously.
At 7pm Christina watches the cleaning team ready the plant for another day from her office, which overlooks the floor on one side and Puget Sound on the other, and she reflects on how the two views are inextricably linked.
Environment | How will your food system of 2050 adapt to climate change and remain resilient?
To eliminate the negative health and environmental consequences of animal agriculture, cellular agriculture technology removes protein production from the natural environment, which has become significantly contaminated. It also removes animals from the production system entirely, by only growing the meat directly from self-renewing animal cells. By removing live animals and moving all production indoors, our system is also substantially more resilient to the impacts of climate change, as warming weather and oceans become nonfactors in seafood production.
Overfishing has caused significant depletion of wild fish stocks, and the Salish Sea has not escaped this trend. Chinook salmon populations have been reduced by more than 60% since we began tracking salmon data in 1984. State and tribal run hatcheries around the region, and across the North Pacific, have stepped in to try to stave off the decline but these programs have led to smaller fish and a less resilient gene pool. Net-pen salmon aquaculture operations are polluting sensitive coastal ecosystems and putting native fish at risk due to disease and escape events. Habitat loss caused by deforestation and damming rivers to aid the agricultural and energy sectors has eliminated thousands of miles of habitat. Oceanic conditions like the “Warm Blob” that decimated wild Pacific salmon populations in 2013 have grown increasingly problematic.
In 2050, consumers will move beyond eating animals altogether. The cellular agriculture industry will allow consumers to continue eating the animal protein that is central to their cultural and dietary traditions and preferences. This new source of animal protein will provide a more nutritious and environmentally friendly alternative that is free of pervasive contaminants (e.g., mercury and microplastics) found in conventional seafood today.
There are strong indications that the cellular agriculture industry, at maturity, will be more energy efficient than conventional methods of production. First, we can purpose-build facilities with modern technology and clean energy in mind (solar, renewable water sources, etc). Second, the process of making cultivated seafood and meat involves far fewer moving parts. In the case of seafood, there is no need to move boats on and offshore to feed fish and transport them for processing. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, because we are growing only the meat we consume (no bones, tails, scales), there will be no waste. In most kitchens today, approximately 50% of a fish’s weight is discarded. In time, we will conduct a robust life cycle analysis comparing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions to conventional alternatives to ensure our vision leads to strong positive outcomes with regard to environmental sustainability.
In addition to animal protein being produced indoors, the plant-based inputs to a cellular agricultural system must be reimagined as well. Vegetables, fruits, and grains will all be susceptible to climate change, and agricultural land will become increasingly scarce as temperatures rise. We will need to incorporate plant growth not only into our built environments (e.g., rooftops, walls, indoor vertical farms), but we must find a way to preserve and reuse water everywhere plants are grown.
Operations like Wildtype’s fisheries, our indoor seafood production facilities, will share their resilience with other indoor agriculture technologies, like vertical farming companies that can grow rows of produce high above street-level. Together, these new means of agricultural production can eliminate food miles that accrue when our food is produced far from urban population centers. Wildtype’s fisheries will be combined with vertical crop cultivation and clean energy and water inputs to create the Salish Sea’s indoor food hub. This hub will be instrumental in creating self-sufficient cities in 2050. Indoor agriculture will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by eliminating food transportation, leaving the idea of shipping food around the world in the dustbin of history.
Diets | How will your food system of 2050 address malnutrition in all its forms (undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, metabolic disease) for the people living there?
Malnutrition is a multidimensional affliction that disproportionately affects underserved, disadvantaged, and lower socioeconomic populations. In its various forms, malnutrition can lead to developmental disorders and cognitive impairment, and paradoxical manifestations such as obesity. It affects all age groups, making it one of the most widespread and insidious problems of both developed and developing societies. It is a problem that continues to adversely impact many communities surrounding the Salish Sea, particularly in the urban areas of Seattle and Vancouver.
Our vision for 2050 encompasses a food system that provides inexpensive, readily accessible, and highly nutritious sources of seafood to these communities. Fish has represented the primary source of sustenance for countless populations over thousands of years, including those of the First Nations and American Indian tribes of this region; our vision is to restore accessible and plentiful quantities of these pristine foods to the region.
Modern nutritional science has validated the plentiful unsaturated fats (including the cardioprotective omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA), protein, vitamins, and other micronutrients found in salmon and other seafood. It is for these reasons that salmon has been frequently characterized as among the most nourishing and health-supporting foods found in nature. It is also for these reasons that diets consisting largely of fish and other seafood are among the most protective against undernutrition and micronutritional deficiencies, such as calcium, iron, zinc, selenium, and vitamin A.
One of Wildtype’s co-founders, Aryé Elfenbein, MD, PhD is a practicing cardiologist. Aryé’s perspective as a physician played a central role in Wildtype’s selection of salmon as the company’s flagship product, on account of its many nutritional benefits.
With regard to the various metabolic disorders that result from malnutritious diets, our vision is driven by a move away from the nutrient-poor fast foods that have been implicated in the modern epidemics of obesity, insulin resistance, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and others. To supplant these options, we seek to provide high-quality salmon that is accessible, inexpensive, available year-round, and that naturally abounds with protein, unsaturated cardioprotective fats, vitamins, and other micronutrients. Even when served in fast casual establishments and convenience stores, these foods represent effective approaches to mitigate the growing trends of undernutrition, deficiency in micronutrients, and associated comorbidities such as metabolic dysfunction.
Finally, while malnutrition typically connotes nutritional deficits and their resultant metabolic disorders, there is also much to be said about the truest form of malnutrition: food containing physiologically deleterious toxins. Whether these are heavy metal contaminants, microplastics, pharmacological agents, or antimicrobial agents (all of which are now pervasive in conventional seafood), our vision for 2050 is one where these toxins are completely eradicated from our seafood. Each of the described toxins (and many more) is entirely absent from seafood produced using cellular agriculture, obviating the need for suggested seafood consumption limits for children and pregnant women. Furthermore, the health benefits of fish consumption that is free of common pharmacologically active contaminants is likely to be realized to an even greater extent as longitudinal studies garner more data over time.
Economics | Where and what will the jobs be that support living wages in your future food system of 2050, and how will these jobs impact gender equality?
Living wages in the Salish Sea agricultural sector have been stagnant for over ten years. While the number of agricultural jobs in Western Washington increased 33% between 2007 and 2017, average annual wages over the same period rose by only about $2,000 to $29,725, far below the average $57,000 per year living wage for Washington State.
Gender inequality in Washington State farm jobs is stark. While women comprise 42% of farm producers in the state, they represent only 24% of principal operators and owners. Outside of farm jobs, a study found that women in Washington saw a 22% wage gap with men in an equivalent position. In the more urbanized areas of the Salish Sea region, food production jobs are a rounding error in the economy. For example, in King County (Seattle), food manufacturing accounts for a mere 0.9% of jobs. Over the last decade, job and wage growth in the region have been pulled along by technology companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, Expedia, and Tableau. While this has led to rapid growth and rising incomes for some, many have been left behind as the region’s economy has become markedly dependent on technology.
Our vision seeks to change these statistics. By leading a food production renaissance, we can bring high-paying agricultural jobs to the Salish Sea region while meaningfully increasing the share of locally produced food. As two examples of potential job creation, we considered Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, which employ more than 480 and 335 people respectively. The average salary at Impossible Foods is $110,000 and $104,000 at Beyond Meat. If even one of these companies at their current size were to open an office in the Puget Sound region, jobs in food production would grow by more than 5%.
A recent study by A.T. Kearney predicted that by 2040, 60% of the global meat market will be served by alternatives. Plant-based meat today comprises less than 1% of overall meat consumption in the United States. If this prediction is only half-correct, it would mean the creation of nearly 2 million alternative meat, poultry, and seafood jobs in the United States by 2050. Our vision is to bring at least 10% of these jobs to the Salish Sea region, creating healthy, sustainable, and local seafood. Two hundred thousand new jobs would rebalance the regional economy away from a boom and bust dependence on information technology companies, while increasing living wages significantly.
In 2050, food production jobs will fall into three categories:
1. Plant and ingredient cultivation: Plants will always play a critical role in our diets, and by 2050 we will revolutionize how we grow them. Not only will we find a way to vertically grow plants efficiently (thus conserving valuable land), but we will incorporate plant production into the built environment. In 2050, we will wonder why we ever had home walls and roofs without gardens, center dividers without tomato vines, and parks without food cultivation. Planting and harvesting will be done by robots, thereby meaningfully increasing yields. Jobs for humans will focus on artfully incorporating food cultivation into our daily lives and devising ever more efficient ways to deliver the sun, water, and carbon needed for plant growth.
2. Protein cultivation: By 2050 we will no longer depend on livestock and wild animals as the primary production technology for meat, poultry, and seafood. With plant-based and cultivated meat and fish options in abundance and at cost parity, animal-derived products will be reserved for specialty applications and will carry a price premium that incorporates all externalities associated with its production. Cultured meat jobs of 2050 will resemble those of today in terms of balancing core research and development with manufacturing roles. Due to this split, average wages will significantly exceed living wages as they do today in plant-based companies such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. Further, if other companies’ employee composition reflects that of Wildtype, we expect approximately 50% of employees to be women. We also expect substantial improvement in leadership team gender equality; women comprise 40% of team lead roles at Wildtype, for example. Although aquaculture has historically required work during early and off-hours, this new form of production with regular hours will be more accessible to working mothers.
3. Logistics and preparation: The balance of food production jobs will comprise packaging, quality testing, shipment, advertising, and sales. While these tasks may seem familiar, the 2050 versions of these roles will be highly automated, with human intervention focused on system design, monitoring, and person-to-person sales.
The future is bright for the Salish Sea region’s food economy. We will return to a balanced economy, one in which food and agricultural jobs are well compensated and sought after, in the way that people flocked to jobs at Microsoft and Amazon in the early 2000s.
Culture | How will your 2050 food system ensure that the cultural, spiritual and community traditions and/or practices in your Place flourish?
Salmon have been an integral part of life around the Salish Sea since indigenous peoples settled these lands over ten thousand years ago. A reliance on salmon as a food source and a utilization of the bounty of marine biodiversity has been a hallmark of life in the Salish Sea region since its first settlement. Many of the region’s traditional foods, such as salmon smoked over cedar wood, remain relevant cultural symbols to this day. A visitor to the Salish Sea region today would be hard pressed to avoid the abundant salmon culture here. Metal salmon are embedded in the concrete of the SeaTac International Airport. Smoked salmon are on offer at nearly every gift shop. Salmon sculptures are present on highway overpasses, and memorials to salmon fishermen can be found in parks and marinas. The region’s history is inextricably linked to this iconic animal.
Salmon is the centerpiece of this region’s food culture, and our vision for our food system in 2050 keeps it that way. Ultimately, it comes down to the notion that saving native salmon is inextricably linked to saving our culture. Implementing our vision brings a keystone species back from the brink of extinction so it can once again symbolize life and culture in the Salish Sea region beyond salmon’s relegation as a figurative mantlepiece. Keeping salmon on our plates preserves our culture.
Rather than dusting off a distant memory of what salmon species meant to our region, our vision will ensure that the people living in the region maintain their connection to the sea without depleting the resource that defines it.
Since time immemorial, salmon have carried a heavy weight of symbolism around the Salish Sea. In indigenous art, salmon stand for abundance, fertility, prosperity, and renewal. Because salmon have been the primary food source in the region, all peoples who settled our coasts have a deep reverence for these species embedded in their cultures. Some groups believed that salmon are immortal people, often called Salmon People, who live in villages deep under the ocean’s surface. Come springtime, these immortals put on salmon disguises and offer themselves as food to the people. After the salmon were eaten, native peoples would put the salmon skeletons back into the sea. They believed their spirits would turn back into Salmon People, creating the circle of life.
Historically, First Salmon Ceremonies are common markers of the beginning of the fishing season across the Salish Sea. The salmon return from the ocean and head into the rivers, continuing their life cycle as they support our own. Even modern cities today, like Issaquah, WA, host annual Salmon festivals, marking the salmon’s return to the rivers and lakes for spawning. It’s not just about what’s on our plate; without native salmon to keep this cycle alive, the Salish Sea region would lose the bedrock of our spirituality and community traditions. Around the developed world there are few such examples of deep connection to nature that have persisted into the modern era like salmon have in our culture around the Salish Sea.
Our vision allows us to maintain salmon as a centerpiece of food culture without having to kill them off to support our growing population and the hungry demand of far off places that import our native fish. As our technology provides a viable alternative to wild-caught and farmed fish, salmon populations will rebound and begin to once again flourish in the Salish Sea. From a cultural standpoint, spiritually as well as culinarily, helping salmon continue their life cycle will allow us to continue our own.
Technology | What technological advances are needed to transform your food system into one that meets your goals and embodies the values of your Vision in 2050?
Technology has shaped the Salish Sea region for more than 50 years. Boeing, Paccar, Microsoft, Amazon, Expedia, T Mobile, and many more local companies have indelibly changed the economy, culture, and demographics. The advancements we describe below are the next logical evolution for a region already profoundly shaped by technology.
There are two classes of technological advances required to achieve our 2050 Vision: 1) underlying technology for cultivated protein and 2) advancements required for the broader food system.
Technology advancements required for cellular agriculture at scale
Cell lines: At its core, cultivated protein relies on the most basic building block of life: the cell. The first step is to isolate special types of cells with two important “stem-like” attributes. First, they must be able to grow rapidly and maintain that growth rate for at least 1-2 years. Second, these cells must be able to “differentiate” or become the cells that comprise meat (e.g., muscle and fat). While stem-like cell lines have been established for many species, they have not been established for seafood species. Our 2050 Vision requires a robust library of established cell lines not just for salmon, but for all major seafood species.
Large-scale cell culture: To be able to grow enough salmon protein for only a fraction of the Salish Sea’s demand, we need to build at least 500,000 liters of cultivation capacity. While cellular agriculture cultivators are similar to the tanks found in large scale beer brewing or clean energy fermentation, substantial adjustments must be made. By comparison, the largest quantity of mammalian cell culture in 2020 is approximately 20,000 liters, so scaling this at least 25-fold for a new cell line presents a substantial opportunity for technological advancement.
Cell nutrients: Each cell line requires its own custom blend of salts, sugars, amino acids, and other nutrients to encourage optimal growth. Many cell lines today require the addition of animal-derived nutrients for optimal growth. Not only is this antithetical to the mission of a company like Wildtype, but it adds substantial costs. A fully plant-based nutrient solution must be designed for each species; this process has required decades of work for existing cell lines used in research and therapeutic applications.
Final product: Perhaps the most significant technological advancement required by cultured meat companies involves the maturation of cells into complex cuts of meat. Salmon, for example, has geometric and regular white banding in fillets, while a ribeye steak has a more random pattern of fat marbling. As of 2020, no company has succeeded in replicating the complex architecture of meat, poultry, or seafood fillets and steaks. Doing this at scale in a reproducible and cost-effective manner will require significant technological advancement by 2050.
Broader technology advancements required for food system as a whole
Power generation: In order to restore native salmon populations, a clean alternative to hydroelectric power must be found. While dams provide one of the cleanest sources of electricity on the planet, they prevent salmon from returning upriver and completing their natural life cycle. Many upriver organisms depend on salmon as a critical food source, including eagles, bears, and even trees. While communities have attempted to help salmon navigate dams through an almost comedic ‘salmon cannon,’ these solutions are significantly disruptive to natural salmon migratory patterns. While removing existing dams may not be feasible, new and clean alternatives to hydroelectric power must be devised to prevent further dams from interrupting the salmon’s habitat. Although wind, solar, and geothermal electric solutions could be expanded, local groups like Seattle’s Intellectual Ventures are currently working on a clean, next-generation nuclear power option. By 2050, we will not only diversify energy sources using existing clean technologies, but we will find new ways to leverage nature’s bounty to provide zero-emission power.
Climate proofing agricultural crops: By 2050, the average temperature in the Salish Sea region will be five degrees Fahrenheit warmer than in 2020. This means that many crops that currently thrive in the region will no longer be able to grow. We will have two options: 1) continue to shift crops northward as the Earth warms or 2) move indoors or underground. By 2050, we will not only need to creatively use our built environment to grow food crops, but will explore indoor and underground farming, powered by advancements in clean energy described above.
With these technological advances, we can bolster our food system to be more resilient against future threats such as COVID-19, which is estimated to have reduced US pork production by 50% or African Swine Fever, which wiped out an estimated 50% of China’s pork stock.
Policy | What types of policies are needed to enable your future food system?
Reshaping a region’s food system, its underlying economy, and reinvigorating its culture are bound to have profound societal effects, requiring thoughtful policy responses. Below are the four most significant policies required to enable our 2050 vision.
1. A clear regulatory pathway: The US food regulatory system overseen by the Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture did not anticipate the advent of cultivated animal protein. Much of the existing food safety regime involves the presence of inspectors supervising the safe disassembly of animals into cuts of meat and seafood -- a paradigm that simply is not applicable when these products are being cultivated from cells.
FDA and USDA took an important first step in March of 2019 when the agencies announced joint oversight of cell-cultured food products. For meat and poultry products, FDA will be responsible for process steps involving cell line development, growth, and harvesting, with USDA assuming responsibility for facility registration, preventative controls, and inspection. Seafood products will be solely regulated by FDA.
Additional clarity is needed on each step of the process outlined by the regulators, including pre-market consultation processes, facility registration steps, and oversight guidelines. Furthermore, questions remain concerning labeling: for example, what level of nutritional or compositional equivalence will be required to label a product “salmon” or “beef?” How will these be measured? Will there be international regulatory reciprocity or must producers go through a similar process in each country?
2. Internalizing externalities: Consumers, even conscientious ones, make their meat and seafood purchases based on three criteria: taste, convenience, and price. Wildtype’s objective is to offer our products at an equivalent, if not lower price than conventionally caught or farmed fish and meat. A critical challenge, however, is that current pricing does not incorporate the full cost of conventionally-produced products. For example, wild-caught seafood prices do not factor in the cost of depleting wild stocks (perhaps irrevocably), the downstream effect this has on the health of our oceans, rivers and streams, nor all of the forage fish they consume. Beef prices do not include a premium for the substantial amount of greenhouse gas emitted during the life and processing of cows, nor the impact the corresponding climate change has on our planet. While Wildtype’s products may reach price parity even without accounting for these externalities, a transparent understanding of the full price of agricultural products will be needed for consumers to make informed decisions about their food choices. This can be accomplished either through policy mandates or by non-profit organizations creating transparency pricing resources that account for the full cost of conventionally produced seafood and meat.
3. Re-examine subsidies: The US government spends approximately $38 billion a year on subsidies to the meat and dairy industry. Globally, the seafood industry receives more than $35 billion a year to subsidize fuel and management costs. While these subsidies play an important role in stabilizing prices and ensuring a good standard of living for farmers and fishers, they can significantly distort market economics. Similar to the discussion of externalities above, the prices we pay at grocery stores or restaurants do not include these costs, which fall on taxpayers. Worse yet, subsidies may encourage behaviors that deplete natural resources or encourage the emission of greenhouse gases. Our 2050 Vision requires a sober look at the intended and unintended consequences of subsidies, and whether they are incentivizing the behaviors needed for a sustainable, equitable, and transparent food system.
4. Retraining/retooling: As discussed in the economics section above, we expect the creation of approximately 2 million jobs in alternative proteins by 2050. While a significant percentage of these will likely come from net new job creation, there will be at least some displacement of conventional seafood and meat production. While companies like ours can elect to locate production in historical centers (e.g., Seattle and Alaska for salmon, Texas for beef), retraining individuals whose jobs have been displaced by new technology could be supported with federal, state, or local training funds. Additionally, companies could consider repurposing old facilities such as beer breweries or dairies for the purpose of alternative protein production, limiting waste and offering high paying jobs to local workers.
As we reimagine food production in the year 2050 from the soil-up, we have the opportunity to challenge established policy dogma, much of which was created with 19th century agriculture in mind. Doing so, however, will require thoughtful and open-minded engagement not just with policy makers, but also with established food producers.
Describe how these 6 Themes connect with and influence one another in your food system.
As we drafted our refined vision and considered the six themes, we were struck by the number of connections. Like a multivariable mathematical equation, finding the optimum between these interconnected themes will require deep thought and finesse.
Economics influence diet because supply and demand influence consumer behavior. For example, fast food is not only one of the cheapest sources of food in the Salish Sea region, it is also one of the most convenient. While most residents of the region would prefer to eat nutritious foods, time and budget constraints often lead to suboptimal and non-preferred dietary choices by consumers. If nutritious foods were also the cheapest and most convenient, we would see drastically different diet and health outcomes.
Economics, technology, and policy have always had profound connections, and this is manifestly true in our Vision. We have already discussed how the creation of millions of new jobs in alternative proteins may have a meaningful effect on the livelihoods of those in incumbent industries. While thoughtful policy responses such as retraining and education programs can potentially blunt most of the deleterious impacts of these changes, other changes should be considered. For example, an outsized concentration of alternative protein companies are currently headquartered in California. If other locations such as the Salish Sea are to capture their share of the boons from these changes, policymakers should consider methods to encourage companies to build capacity in their regions. While lower real estate and labor costs are one factor, policymakers have a range of tools at their disposal to woo fast-growing companies to their regions such as long-term infrastructure development.
Technology and culture have also intersected for decades in the Salish Sea region. Native American and First Nation culture dominated the region for most of human history. This was displaced when gold, timber, furs, and fishing drew settlers to the region. Much later, Boeing reshaped the culture of the region by bringing in the first wave of engineers. Today, Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, Expedia, T-Mobile and many other companies that call this region home have again transformed the region into what many consider a miniature San Francisco Bay Area. Tension with the culture is evident here with “go home tech bro” stickers and graffiti ubiquitous on Seattle’s streets. It is not lost on us that introducing yet another technological change may usher in new resentment and a clash with existing cultural norms.
Finally, the environment most profoundly interacts with our diet and technology. Absent urgent action today, we simply will not be able to eat many of the seafood products we regularly enjoy due to overfishing. Our food technology has profoundly shaped our environment and adds more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the entire transportation sector, combined. We can and must do better.
Describe any trade-offs you may have to make within your system to attain your Vision by 2050.
The most significant trade-off we may have to make to bring our food system vision to fruition is the balance between fewer, larger production facilities versus more numerous, localized facilities. We could transform more local economies with more points of production but by doing so we would lose significant economies of scale. Both the technology and the built environment are very expensive to develop; large scale production may be required to make our products cost competitive with conventionally produced animal protein.
Another trade-off we will certainly have to make if our 2050 food system vision is to become a reality is the cultural and economic loss of a strong commercial fishing and aquaculture industry. While industrial aquaculture is relatively new, commercial fishing is an age-old industry in coastal communities. We are setting out to fundamentally transform the seafood industry from an extractive one to a renewable one. In doing so we will be trading the cultural and economic value of an industry that historically provided livelihoods for a new incarnation of that industry that will allow our oceans to recover from the severe depletion they are experiencing today. While responsibly fished seafood will always have a role in our food system, prices must rise to allow for living wages for fishers and to reflect all externalities.
Clean hydropower provides most of the electricity to the Salish Sea region. If we are to restore natural habitats and allow salmon to maintain their migration upriver, an alternative to building new dams must be found as the region’s electricity needs grow.
We also have difficult trade-offs to consider between technology and culture. As Earth’s population and urbanization increase, we will be forced to move away from a wild or pastoral existence. While vertical farming and cellular agriculture technologies will help us efficiently and sustainably provide nutritious food to the expected 10 billion people that will inhabit planet Earth, we will lose a sense of connection to nature through hunting and fishing that has been with humanity for most of our history. For this reason, it will become increasingly important to protect our natural environment to allow us all to periodically reconnect with rivers, large trees, and wild animals. In a paradoxical way, by limiting our haphazard interaction with nature, we can ultimately protect our species’ ability to return to truly wild places.
3 Years | Describe 3 key milestones that you would need to achieve within the next three years for your Vision to be on track?
Achieving our vision will require a combination of internal and system-wide milestones.
Taste: The idea of alternative proteins is not new. Plant-based meat alternatives have been on the market for decades. What makes the newest class of companies like Wildtype and Impossible Foods different is the fidelity our products provide when compared to conventionally harvested meat and seafood. Our first, and most critical milestone therefore, is achieving positive reviews of our product from a statistically significant sample of American consumers.
Cost: While an initial product launch can target upscale restaurants whose diners are willing to pay a premium for unique foods, price parity is required to realize our vision. At the low end, salmon wholesales for ~$3 / pound. Retail prices range from $10 a pound for farmed Atlantic salmon to upwards of $40 a pound for fresh Chinook or Sockeye salmon. Bringing our costs within this range is a critically important milestone to ensure that our products are widely accessible.
Scale: To date, no individual or company has succeeded in using cellular agriculture technologies to culture enough meat, poultry, or seafood to regularly supply one restaurant, let alone a grocery store. A key milestone for us is to achieve sufficient annual production capacity to supply several restaurants in the Salish Sea region.
Community: The refinement phase focused our community outreach efforts, but this is only the beginning. We must build infrastructure with channels for recurring community engagement. For 2023, this will take the shape of a Salish Sea food hub advisory group with quarterly topic-driven gatherings.
Indoor agriculture and clean energy: Our Salish Sea food hub requires significant input and technological progress from both vertical farming and alternative energy sources. By 2023, we will establish partnerships and explore proof of concept projects with companies in these sectors.
10 Years | What progress will you need to make—by 2030—that would set your Vision up to become a reality by 2050?
By 2030, customer reviews consistently rank Wildtype salmon among the finest in the world. Wildtype’s cultivated seafood will be produced at large-scale and unit costs will be below $10 USD a pound, increasing competitive positioning vis-à-vis farmed fish as well as mid-market wild species.
Our cultivated seafood products will be distributed throughout the Salish Sea region in both restaurants and grocery stores. Regulatory approval for sale nationally will be achieved, and we will be in the process of expanding sales to the rest of the US market. In 2020, over 90% of seafood in the United States was imported. By 2030, largely thanks to reinvigorated seafood production on the Salish Sea, the United States is moving toward a net exporter status.
Our indoor agriculture campus in Seattle, WA will have received international media coverage and thought leaders around the world will present our food hub as a model for how we can sustainably feed 10 billion people without destroying the planet as we know it. Delegations from cities and states around the world will visit our fishery and meet with our partners across the private, public, and social sectors to explore how the Salish Sea Food Hub might be adapted for other geographic areas with different climates and natural resources.
The strong alliances we’ve built with a broad range of stakeholders in the Salish Sea region will have matured into a formal organization with a charter, membership, and a clear vision that pulls together our various missions into a unifying call to action. The Salish Sea Food Hub coalition will evolve into a set of meaningful partnerships between members. For example, Wildtype’s Salish Sea fishery might be midway through a pilot program sourcing local vertically grown nutrients for cell production.
If awarded the $200,000 prize what would you do with it?
For our vision to become reality, we must make significant technological progress over the next 18 months. We will use prize proceeds to hire additional researchers that we otherwise would not be able to afford. One researcher will focus on making our products accessible to as many people as possible. This will require breakthrough discoveries in establishing cell lines that can grow in very high densities. Higher densities of cells (output) in the same amount of nutrients (input) will translate directly into lower costs sooner than we had planned.
A second researcher will focus on the nutritional composition of the products. Specifically, this researcher will work to ensure nutritional equivalence with the healthiest cuts of salmon in terms of omega 3, protein, and vitamin content. Combined with the absence of antibiotics, microplastics, and heavy metals like mercury, we hope to offer the most nutritious salmon on Earth.
In addition to this critical research, we will use a portion of the funds to begin designing our Salish Sea fishery. Our vision for this multi-million dollar facility not only includes a pilot production facility but also an interactive exhibition space to educate and engage with the public on regional and global seafood issues. Today, it is not easy for the public to understand where most of our fish and seafood comes from given that most fish farms are not open to the public. We intend to inject much needed transparency into food production. Our exhibition space and production floor will be separated by a glass wall, which will allow everyone to see how their food is made. Similar to Starbucks’ flagship roastery in Seattle, our fishery experts will teach children and adults alike about our production process in an interactive manner. We will consult widely with our stakeholders to guide the design process.
If you are chosen as a Top Visionary, The Rockefeller Foundation would like to share your Vision widely with a global audience. What would you like the world to learn from your Vision for 2050?
Recent events have exposed vulnerabilities in our food supply chain. COVID-19 related meat shortages have hit American consumers, and more than 50% of China’s pork stock was wiped out by African Swine Fever last summer. The situation with seafood is even worse. With 2/3 of the world’s fish considered overfished or depleted, the need for an alternative has never been more acute. Fish and seafood is collectively humanity’s largest source of animal protein, and we are on track to run out of fish.
There is a better way to produce protein. The Salish Sea, once home to one our planet’s most abundant supplies of salmon, will reclaim its position as a food hub. While technology giants dominated the region in 2020, the economy of the Salish Sea in 2050 will be grounded in sustainable food production. Starting with salmon cultivated from cells rather than animals, Wildtype will lead a renaissance in local food production that will restore native salmon populations, protect a culture grounded in this keystone species, create thousands of high-paying jobs, and tie together a new way of cultivating proteins and plants that is resilient to rising temperatures.
Microsoft and Amazon forever changed the rhythms of our lives with their technology. The next chapter of the Salish Sea’s history will be driven by food production that is seamlessly integrated into even the most urban environments. We will look back on 2020 and wonder why food was ever produced any other way.