Singapore startup TurtleTree Labs, the first company in the world to reproduce the full composition of dairy milk without cows, has just completed its pre-seed funding round. The financing was backed by Lever VC, K2 Global and KBW Ventures, and will enable TurtleTree Labs to create additional prototypes and debut their first cell-based dairy milk and breast milk products in the upcoming spring.
TurtleTree Labs, a Singapore-based startup using biotechnology to replicate the full nutritional content of milk, has just announced that it has secured its pre-seed funding. The round was led by a trio of investment houses specialised in alternative protein investments including US-Hong Kong fund Lever VC, KBW Ventures, founded by HRH Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal, and Silicon Valley-based K2 Global.
Commenting on the innovation and disruptive potential of TurtleTree Labs, founder and managing partner at Lever VC Nick Cooney said: “They are the first company in the world producing real, whole milk from cell cultivation – which opens the door for safer, healthier and customised dairy products that can be produced with far fewer natural resources.”
Co-founded in 2019 by Fengru Lin, Rabail Toor and Max Rye, the company is the world’s first cell-based milk company that utilises biotechnology to manufacture milk products without any animal needed. By producing cell-based milk that recreates the exact composition, functionality and taste of milk, TurtleTree Labs hopes to disrupt a multibillion dollar industry that is a major part of our current unsustainable global food system. Their final milk product can then be used to make all kinds of other dairy products, such as cheese, butter, yoghurt and cream.
Compared to conventional dairy farming, TurtleTree’s cell-based biotechnology leaves behind a significantly smaller footprint on the planet. According to non-profit organisation GRAIN, just 10 of the biggest dairy companies in the world generates enough greenhouse gas emissions each year to match half of France’s total output, which is driving our climate crisis. In addition, traditional dairy farming depletes the soil of its nutrients, contributes to water pollution and is an inefficient use of land.
Not only are they the only startup globally to be creating dairy without the use of animals, TurtleTree Labs’ founders claim that they are the only company who have been able to replicate the exact full composition of dairy milk. By contrast, Californian startup Perfect Day uses DNA from cow’s milk, and adds yeast to ferment whey and casein, which make up the partial components of milk. In addition, with their unique proprietary technology that uses mammal cells to produce full milk in their lab facility, they have applied their science to recreate human breast milk, which takes aim at the infant milk formula industry that is currently valued at US$ 45 billion and will more than double by 2026.
They are also different from plant-based milks, which are rapidly growing in popularity as veganism becomes mainstream, and helping to take down traditional dairy giants along the way. According to the founders of TurtleTree Labs, vegan milks do not typically have the exact same taste and functionality of milk, and with their product, they can tap into the massive market of consumers who may still prefer dairy products and create a greater overall impact on the food system.
With their pre-seed funding, the startup hopes to get on board more scientists on their team to develop additional prototypes, and publicly debut the world’s first cultivated dairy and human breast milk within the next months, according to co-founder Rye. The planned acceleration, says co-founder and CEO Lin, will help transform “the entire landscape of human breast and traditional bovine milk as a result of our technology.”
All images courtesy of TurtleTree Labs.