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Home News Could cellular seafood take pressure off Earth’s overfished oceans?

Could cellular seafood take pressure off Earth’s overfished oceans?

BlueNalu

Take the “sea” out of seafood and what have you got left? Well, “food,” obviously. But also quite possibly the makings of a multi-billion dollar industry. At least, that’s the hope of a group of intrepid startups offering a fishier remix of the high-tech meat alternatives made famous by companies like Memphis Meats. These startups are doing the same; only instead of trying to create meat proteins in a lab, they’re attempting to grow seafood from cells in a laboratory, rather than harvesting it from the oceans.

This isn’t just about tech for tech’s sake. With massive problems with overfishing worldwide, with growing demanding for shrinking supplies of seafood, the way fish currently makes its way to our plate isn’t viable long-term. Between 1961 and 2016, the average annual increase in global food fish consumption outpaced population growth. It also exceeded meat from all terrestrial animals combined. Those are figures that not sustainable. Not for us, the fish, or the environment as a whole.

Cellular seafood could be the answer. Just don’t make the mistake of calling it lab-grown fish.

“None of us in the industry would call it lab-grown seafood,” Mike Selden, CEO of Finless Foods, told Digital Trends. “Finless Foods is not lab-grown. We experiment and create our science in the lab, [but] do not produce there. Our products come from a production facility much like a farm is a production facility for animals. We just don’t need the animals to create the nutrition.”

Finless Foods is a biotech company located in San Francisco. Beginning 2017, it’s been working to bring to market a species of cultured bluefin tuna created using cellular aquaculture technology. Shortly after it made its debut, the company produced its first pound of bluefin tuna meat for a cost of approximately $19,000. Since then, however, it’s been working to bring that price down to what it hopes will eventually be a level comparable with regular market prices (roughly $40 per lb.)

BlueNalu

Selden said that he terms what Finless Foods is doing as “cell-based seafood.” That separates it from other startups doing related, but distinct work like creating plant-based “shrimp” from specially-engineered red algae. “We’re growing seafood from real seafood cells,” Selden explained. “We take cells from a fish once, and [then grow them endlessly] from that. We do the same process that happens inside of a fish, and make it happen outside of a fish. This increases efficiency.”

On a consumer level, the difference shouldn’t be all that apparent. Finless Foods’ bluefin tuna will look, taste, and feel like the genuine (or, perhaps more appropriately, natural water-dwelling) article. But it can also be made fresher, and free from the likes of antibiotics, mercury and micro plastics.

Right time, right plaice

Finless Foods is not the only fish in this particular ocean. While cellular seafood is still a relatively new and unpopulated space, a growing number of intrepid players are jostling for position. BlueNalu is another company looking to claim a piece of the cellular aquaculture action. Based in San Diego, since 2017 BlueNalu has been working to bring to market its own cell-based seafood. Its name is a riff on the Hawaiin word “nalu” which refers to both the ocean and mindfulness.

“Our products are made from a starting sample of the desired species of fish, where we harvest three kinds of cells that represent the muscle, fat, and connective tissues of the fish,” Chris Dammann, BlueNalu’s chief technology officer, told Digital Trends. “We then feed the cells using a mixture of amino acids, salts, lipids, sugars, and vitamins. [Then we] grow the cells at large volumes in bioreactors that are stainless steel tanks, like in a brewery. This process is similar to other known food processes such as yogurt [which use] bacteria, or beer [which uses] yeast.”

These cells are then concentrated, shaped by way of an extrusion process not dissimilar to that of pasta, and the resulting fillets packaged up for distribution. Or, at least, they will be once BlueNalu introduces them some time around the middle of 2021, FDA clearance allowing. Lou Cooperhouse, CEO of BlueNalu, told Digital Trends that “large-scale production will follow shortly thereafter.”

BlueNalu

Wild Type, founded in 2016, is one more California-based startup with designs on rethinking the way we consume fish. Its initial focus is on salmon. Wild Type also has yet to release its first product. But its representatives told Digital Trends that it is “actively engaging with a broad community of chefs, restaurant owners, and food lovers on potential applications” for its cellular fish.

“We’re using cellular agriculture to conserve wild salmon, protect the oceans, and help solve global food insecurity,” Ben Friedman, head of product for Wild Type, told Digital Trends. “While demand for seafood is at an all-time high, wild fish stocks continue to decline, and salmon farms are wreaking environmental havoc on our sensitive coastal ecosystems. Our goal is to provide consumers with a new third option for seafood that is better for them and the planet.”

Cod it be good for sustainability?

The goal of cellular seafood is not, its proponents claim, to entirely disrupt the current seafood industry. Instead, it’s to augment it — and perhaps to help mitigate some of the more harmful and negative aspects of current fishing practices, such as overfishing and illegal fishing.

“I don’t think we’ll ever fully replace fishing for live fish,” said Finless Foods’ Mike Selden. “What we [would] like to do is largely replace industrial fishing and let indigenous people take back their own waters, taking the strain off the ocean to let it heal. Local coastline fishing is neither something we want or could replace.”

BlueNalu

Nonetheless, there is a strong sustainability argument repeated by those working in the field. Particularly when it comes to certain marine species, which have halved since 1970, this laboratory-based approach could help create a plentiful supply of certain fish without endangering the survival of certain overfished species as a whole.

“Seafood is known to be tremendously resource efficient relative to land-based beef, pork or poultry,” said BlueNalu CEO Lou Cooperhouse. “While we are not yet in a position to conduct a full life-cycle analysis of our products, [we anticipate] that cell-based seafood will have even greater resource efficiencies as we no longer need to grow the heads, tails, bones or scales that make up 40-60% of the fish. [Rather, we can] focus resources on producing fish fillets that are 100% yield.”

Hooking the masses

There are still bottlenecks and assorted other problems to be solved before cellular aquaculture can truly start to live up to its potential. Finless Foods’ Mike Selden said that regulatory approval is a big one. “We know that our product is safe but we would also like to publicly demonstrate that,” he explained. “It is important to us to have an efficient but fair pre-market approval process and path to market. That is also very important for cell-based seafoods in general to take hold.”

BlueNalu

There’s no doubt that there is a high level of complexity in this cell-based approach to growing seafood. That’s especially true when you factor in the diversity of fish species, which are far more varied than just the cows, pigs and sheep which up the majority of meats consumed in places like the U.S. However, there is reason to believe this can be achieved. Animal cell culture already happens at scale today in the pharmaceutical industry, proving that such a thing is possible at a certain production quota — albeit in a slightly different domain.

BlueNalu’s team additionally points out that, compared to the structure of mammalian meat which other startups are trying to replicate, fish is comparatively straightforward.

“It is technically easier to generate cell-based fish meat than a piece of beef or pork,” said BlueNalu CTO Chris Dammann. “To this point, BlueNalu has recently demonstrated that its first products, which are small pieces of whole fish muscle made from the cells of yellowtail, can be prepared in many ways, including deep fried for fish tacos, raw, or acidified as in poke or ceviche — and performs the same as conventional seafood in all respects.”

More players are beginning to enter the field, too. From just a handful a couple of years ago, soon the cell-based fish industry will be thriving with newcomers, all with their own spin on the technology or its application. Air Protein, for instance, has an innovative approach to creating cellular seafood patterned after science NASA developed in the 1960s for feeding astronauts. “We are working hard to build upon our technical successes to bring air-based meat analogues, including seafood, to the marketplace,” Dr. Lisa Dyson, CEO of Air Protein, told Digital Trends. “Details on timing for specific products will be announced in the future.”

Particularly once the first cellular seafood products come to market, others are likely to pour in as well. And why not? With the promise of leading this exciting new market and helping create a sustainable alternative, there’s every reason to be excited.

You could even go so far as to see it’s a great oppor-tuna-ty. You probably shouldn’t, though. That may be one fish pun too many.

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Sennheiser GSP 670 headset review: premium price, subpar performance

The search for a new headset can really get frustrating. Sure, there are a million options on Amazon for under $50, but when you want something premium, where do you start? If you’re looking for the best possible audio quality, you start with the Sennheiser GSP 670 and hope you can find it on sale because these things don’t come cheap.The GSP 670 is a premium headset with sound quality and a price tag to match. Launching at $350, you’re paying for the Sennheiser name and quality. We’ve tested multiple Sennheiser headsets throughout the years and have almost always come away impressed. That’s the same story here.The first thing you may notice about this headset is just how big it is. It looks big before you pick it up and it feels big once you put it on. Coming in at just shy of 400g, it has the weight to make those extremely long gaming sessions taxing, but luckily Sennheiser included one of the best headbands I’ve seen in a headset yet. It’s big and comfortable without looking too ridiculous.The earcups are equally nice with large plus fabric cups that will keep your ears away from the driver covers. If you prefer leatherette cups you’ll want to find another option, but I did find these to be one of the most comfortable headsets to just sit and listen to music on. The clamping force is just right (although uneven; more on that later) and the earcups provide a wonderful seal to keep the noise of the world away from your ears.One the outside of the headset, there’s a small tactile wheel to adjust chat volume if you’re using a gaming console, a large volume knob, and a multifunction button that will provide audio prompts for battery level and put you into pairing mode when you hold it down. The only thing we’re missing here is a physical switch to move between Bluetooth and 2.4ghz connection standards, and we’ll tell you why that matters in a bit.The microphone is on the left side of the headset and provides a nice tactile click when you flip it all the way up. This is how you mute your microphone and comes in handy when you need to have a quick conversation and get back to whatever you were doing before.I wish I could report that the microphone provided better audio quality but I was pretty disappointed. It’s been a struggle to find a wireless headset that really gives great performance in this area (I’m guessing there’s a bandwidth issue) and the Sennheisers fall disappointingly short. I think they sound much the same as every other headset released in the last decade, which isn’t saying a lot.Both Bluetooth and 2.4ghz connection standards are here. Plugging the USB dongle into my computer, the headset paired almost instantly and opened up a world of opportunity to tune through the Sennheiser app. There are options to tune your EQ, how the microphone sounds, and even provide a noise gate in case you have a noisy background. I didn’t find much difference in how the microphone sounded using these options so hopefully, they continue to be tuned in future updates.The sound that comes through these headphones is a completely different story. This has been one of the best audio experiences I’ve had in my time reviewing tech. I’d put it up there with the Sony WH-1000xm3 in terms of enjoyment. Where Sony offers amazing noise cancelation, the Sennheiser GSP 670 takes the crown in terms of audio quality.I found music pleasingly bass-y without feeling like I’m slogging through the mud just to listen. Mids are very clear while highs are crisp without being piercing.I just wish I enjoyed wearing these more. I can’t overstate how heavy these things are. At just under 400g, they’re one of the heavier headsets I’ve tested and it can be exhausting during long sessions. With 16 hours of battery life, those sessions can last all night, but you’ll need breaks.Additionally, I don’t like wearing these because of how the cups sit on my head. While the cups themselves are large enough that my ear doesn’t touch anything, the clamping is uneven and annoying. You can use the sliders in the headband to adjust your clamp, but I always end up with more pressure on the bottom of the cups than at the top.Frankly, these don’t look great and certainly don’t look like something I’d pay over $300 for. They’re big and bulky with muted colors and an … aggressive? design. I’m not entirely sure what to call this design language but there are definitely better-looking options on the market. This won’t matter to some, but for those who do care, it’s a bit of a killer and makes the cost harder to justify.ConclusionThere are always trade-offs when you’re using a wireless headset. Sennheiser smartly did not skimp on the audio quality and if you’re looking for a wireless headset that sounds great, this is definitely where you want to start. I put it at the top of the list in that respect.But, where it falls apart is pretty much everywhere else. Tradeoffs become pretty obvious when you use these for more than a few hours.Yep, they’re built solidly and the plastic design means they’ll hold up to some abuse. But, these look cheaper than competing options like the Astro A50s and Arctis Pro Wireless. Plus, as I’ve said a few times, they’re heavy.It’s awesome that they have both 2.4ghz and Bluetooth standards. But there’s no way to manually switch between them and the second that your computer plays audio via the USB dongle, the Bluetooth cuts out completely. If you’re using these to take a phone call or listen to music on your phone and you accidentally click on a YouTube link on your computer, say goodbye to your audio. This would be an easy fix with a manual switch and we hope to see that in a future revision.Best over-ear headphones (spring 2020)I can’t state enough how crappy the audio from the mic is. Maybe I’m spoiled by streamers who invest hundreds and hundreds of dollars into their audio equipment, but this sounds like every headset I’ve heard the last decade of gaming and that’s pretty disappointing.If your voice quality matters to you at all, I’d suggest getting a standalone mic. But you have to ask yourself if you’re grabbing something like a Blue Yeti, is there a justification for the GSP 670 when you can buy a wireless headset for far cheaper?I know it probably looks like I hate the Sennheiser GSP 670 but I don’t. In true dad fashion, I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed. While they’re best in class in terms of audio quality, the things they miss on are a killer and make them harder to recommend over other competitors.After a bit of searching, I’ve found the Sennheiser GSP 670 around $300 and sometimes cheaper on sale. I think if you can find these cheaper than that, go for it. Your ears will thank you. At full price, they’re a tough sell.Buy the Sennheiser GSP 670 at Amazon

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