Our oceans, once teeming with life and vitality, are facing unprecedented challenges. They’re becoming more acidic, pollution is on the rise, and the waters are getting warmer—all while our world’s population continues to grow. At the same time, there’s an urgent need to produce healthier fish to feed the world’s growing population of 7 billion people, and counting. It’s for this reason one tech startup is on a mission to tackle these challenges.
Enter Wanda Fish Technologies, an Israeli food tech startup at the forefront of a sustainable seafood revolution with a mission to produce sustainable fish while recovering the oceans. Using innovative technologies, the startup has crafted top-quality fish fillets without relying on traditional ocean fishing. Their flagship product, currently in development, is a whole-cut cultivated bluefin tuna fillet made from the fish’s own muscle and fat cells. What sets it apart is that it maintains the true texture, flavor, and nutritional value of wild-caught fish, offering a promising glimpse into the future of seafood production.
Today, Wanda Fish announced today it has secured $7 million in seed funding to boost its ability to accelerate the creation and increase the scale of a cultivated whole-cut filet of bluefin tuna.
The round, which brings the company’s total funding to $10 million, was led by Netherlands-based global aquaculture investment fund Aqua-Spark, with additional funding from returning pre-seed investors The Kitchen Hub by the Strauss Group, Peregrine Ventures, LLC, PICO Venture Partners, MOREVC, and CPT Capital, LLP.
Founded in 2021 by The Kitchen Hub and biotechnology pioneer Daphna Heffetz with a mission to revolutionize fish production by cultivating premium-quality seafood away from the open ocean. The company’s first product in the making is none other than the whole-cut cultivated bluefin tuna fillet. Crafted from the fish’s own muscle and fat cells, it promises to deliver genuine texture, flavor, and nutritional richness akin to its wild-caught counterpart.
These fillets replicate the texture, flavor, and nutritional richness of wild-caught bluefin tuna. How do they do it? By using the fish’s own muscle and fat cells, preserving the native proteins and essential fatty acids, including omega-3, without any of the typical ocean pollutants like mercury. Plus, they adhere to strict non-GMO standards.
“We are excited and feel incredibly fortunate to collaborate with Aqua-Spark in propelling our venture forward,” says Daphna Heffetz, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO of Wanda Fish. “We are on a shared mission to improve the global food value chain, creating a tasty, more sustainable future for all. This financial backing by leading global venture funds gives us significant leverage to make sustainably cultivated, cruelty-free, and ocean-friendly bluefin tuna a reality.”
Bluefin tuna is prized for its nutritional value, texture, and flavor, making it a favorite in high-end sushi restaurants. However, overfishing and the species’ vulnerability have led to stringent fishing quotas. Traditional tuna farming is considered unsustainable due to resource-intensive feed requirements, large pen sizes, and the challenges of breeding in captivity. Moreover, tuna often suffers from pollution, carrying plastic debris and elevated levels of heavy metals like mercury.
Wanda Fish has made significant strides in overcoming these obstacles, achieving key breakthroughs in developing whole-cut bluefin tuna prototypes. Their innovative approach involves creating a 3D fillet structure from bluefin tuna cells, differentiating both muscle and fat tissues. This proprietary technique allows precise control of fat levels, enabling the production of a variety of fillet cuts, including the highly coveted Toro premium cut. Ultimately, Wanda Fish aims to provide a sustainable, highly nutritious source of fish that alleviates pressure on the fragile ocean ecosystem.
“In such a burgeoning and innovative sector, we are pleased to welcome Wanda Fish into our portfolio of companies based on the remarkable speed with which they’ve met significant milestones,” asserts Lissy Smit, CEO of Aqua-Spark. “We firmly believe in a future where sustainably farmed and cultivated seafood will work in concert with one another to alleviate the burden of overfishing, especially species like bluefin tuna which are deemed unsustainable to farm.”
The team behind Wanda Fish comprises a highly skilled multidisciplinary team. Leading the charge is Daphna Heffetz, Ph.D., who boasts over two decades of experience in building and nurturing biotechnology companies. Joining her is Malkiel Cohen, Ph.D., the VP of R&D, a true authority in stem cell technology and genomic engineering. Rounding out the trio is Yaron Sfadyah, LL.B & B.A., the VP of Business Development, armed with a wealth of global marketing and business development experience.
Since its inception two years ago, Wanda Fish has been able to ink an exclusive licensing and sponsored research agreement with Tufts University in Boston. They work hand in hand with the esteemed David Kaplan, PhD, a world-renowned academic luminary in the realm of cellular agriculture. Together, this powerhouse team is set to make waves in the world of sustainable seafood production.
“As the start-up’s incubator, we’ve had the privilege of witnessing the immense progress Wanda Fish has made since their inception less than two years ago,” enthuses Jonathan Berger, CEO of The Kitchen FoodTech Hub. “Wanda Fish is transforming visionary ideas into a tangible, cutting-edge product that is just steps away from reaching its prototype. This is credited to a skilled and ambitious multinational team led by Daphna Heffetz that is undoubtedly poised for a resounding success story in the thriving alternative protein space; this spells good news for an overburdened marine ecosystem.”