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Overcoming Challenges and Celebrating Wins 

By Brandon Chen, CTO at Finless Foods on October 3, 2022
Image description: Brandon standing outside wearing a white and gray Finless Foods baseball shirt, looking off toward the left through binoculars and smiling.

The third quarter marks another critical milestone for Finless Foods as we further expanded the R&D capabilities at our pilot facility, after wholly occupying the space since April of this year. We now can grow our bluefin tuna cells at larger scales, quickly analyze their nutrient requirements, and produce our bluefin tuna sashimi prototypes with shorter iterations. Looking back on our 17-month journey, the construction of this pilot facility was not trivial, and we did it all during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

My name is Brandon Chen, and I am the Chief Technology Officer at Finless Foods. I led and oversaw the construction project of the Finless pilot facility. The project was not all smooth sailing. Due to disrupted supply chains, we faced challenges with a long lead time for critical equipment. In late 2021, half of the construction crew was on sick leave due to COVID-19. Despite these setbacks, we worked closely with the project’s general contractor and the construction crew. As a united team, we prioritized safety and developed backup plans to bring this construction project back on track steadily. This would not have been possible without the strong support of the entire Finless staff, our landlord, design and construction teams, independent project manager, and the City of Emeryville.

As a virologist by training, I was also responsible for developing the company-wide COVID-19 response plan and implementing an on-site COVID-19 testing program to mitigate the COVID-19 outbreak risks and keep our Finless team safe. Managing a construction project of this size during the COVID-19 pandemic was challenging. The COVID-19 vaccines were not yet approved and made available to general populations. All we could rely on were mask-wearing, physical distancing, COVID-19 testing, and contact tracing to ensure the safety of our Finless team and the construction crew.

As we gear up toward tuna cell production at our pilot facility for the regulatory submission, I look forward to further expanding the Finless team toward commercializing our cell-cultured products pending regulatory approval. The challenges ahead of us to expand our team are not only operational, but also cultural. Finless already has a team with different backgrounds, cultures, and working styles. I believe the inherent diversity at Finless Foods was critical to our success, as diversity helps teams perform better. This intrinsic diversity is rooted in Finless Foods’ company culture of prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. As a first-generation immigrant from Taiwan and a member of the LGBTQ community, I’ve lived in and with it. This year I kicked off Finless Foods’ inaugural culture committee and a leadership training program, all with this theme in mind as a foundation to build a strong company culture for future expansion. Our ongoing DiSC training program, which I introduced to the company two years ago, has also produced an outstanding result by bringing together different work styles to solve scientific challenges and develop innovative solutions. 

As we march step by step closer to commercializing our cell-cultured tuna, no words can express my deep appreciation to the Finless team for their dedication to their work and our mission. Together, we can make a more sustainable world!

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