There is nothing fishy about this fillet. In fact, to call it salmon at all would be a red herring.
This is the world’s first 3D printed, vegan-friendly fish steak made entirely from plants. It was dreamt up by Israeli start-up Plantish, which wants to provide an alternative for people who wish to abstain from animal products and protect the oceans, while still enjoying the taste, texture and nutrition of fish.
“A fish is the most hunted animal in the world,” said Ofek Ron, the company’s co-founder and chief executive.
“Unless we do something, in a few dozen decades there will probably be no more fish in the sea.
“We exist to save the oceans and eliminate the need to consume marine animals by providing more sustainable, more nutritious, and more delicious fish options”.
The boneless prototype fillets are made by reverse engineering an actual salmon to discover the balance of components - such as protein, fat, water, omega 3 and 6 - before swapping them for plant alternatives.
Israeli start-up Plantish wants to provide an alternative for people who wish to abstain from animal products and protect the oceans
The building blocks are then fed into a 3D printer which layers them up into the exact structure of a fish, complete with pink hue and complex layers of muscle and fat.
Unlike other alternative fish companies which focus on lab-cultured products by sampling animal cells and raising them in the laboratory, Plantish has vowed to be completely plant-based.
“3D printing is the name of the game,” added Dr Hilla Elimelech, a Plantish food scientist.
“We come to the lab and take certain substances from plants - for example soy protein, fat, water, omega 3, omega 6 - to create the composition we reassemble into a fish configuration.
“We want to rebuild the structure of the fish precisely.”
While salmon is the first time the company has dipped their toe in the waters of 3D printed fish, the goal is to eventually supply other seafood products like prawns and calamari and revolutionise the fish industry in the same way companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods changed the alternative meat market.
As well as preventing overfishing, engineering fish also eliminates the danger from toxins such as mercury, microplastics, antibiotics and hormones.
However, there are still hurdles to overcome. In recent taste tests, participants said that although the look and taste of the salmon fillet was “spot on”, they were less impressed by the texture.
“The most challenging thing is the texture,” admitted Dr Elimelech. “Here lies most of our efforts.”
With ongoing tweaks, Plantish is hoping that the fillet will be in restaurants within two years, and supermarkets in three.
Vision to be ‘world’s leading seafood brand’
“We’re only six months old,” added Ron. “Our vision is to be the world’s leading seafood brand, all without hurting a single fish.”
The “faux-fish” market is growing, with Tesco about to launch a range of plant-based fish and crab cakes.
The Dutch brand Vegan Zeastar is due to launch a smoked salmon alternative called “Zalmon” made entirely from tapioca starch, after already creating “Shrimpz” and “Kalamariz”.
Last year, Nestle launched “Vrimp” - a shrimp alternative made from seaweed and peas.
But the difficulty lies in creating a large piece of fish, meaning most replacements are flaked or minced, or encased in batter.