Singapore’s Cell-Based Dairy Tech Startup TurtleTree Labs Raises US$3.2M Seed Funding

TurtleTree Labs

“Food tech innovation in Asia is way overdue,” a TurtleTree Labs investor says

Singapore-based biotech startup TurtleTree Labs has raised $3.2 million in seed funding for its cell-based milk development technology, the company announced in a statement today.

The round was funded by Hong Kong-based Green Monday Group’s impact investment arm Green Monday Ventures, Australian alternative investment management firm Artesian, and San Francisco-based venture capital fund New Luna Ventures, the statement said.

It added that high profile backers Saudi Arabian royalty Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud’s KBW Ventures, a returning investor, and venture arm of British businessman Jeremy Coller’s private family office CPT Capital, also invested in the round.

The fresh funding will be used for “accessing technological resources to accelerate our development” by supporting its bioreactor design and development, and piloting plant activities, Co-founder and CEO of TurtleTree Labs Fengru Lin told Jumpstart via email.

The company will be designing and building a prototype commercial scale bioreactor as well as a five-liter bioreactor by the end of the year, while focusing on strategic aspects of their new plant such as design and location, she added.

The company had earlier raised a pre-seed round of funding for an undisclosed amount in 2019 led by U.S. and Hong Kong-based Lever VC, according to the statement. The venture capital fund recently announced its RMB 200 million Lever China Alternative Protein Fund for alternative protein startups.

KBW Ventures also partook in the pre-seed round, along with Silicon Valley and Singapore-based venture capital firm K2 Capital.

The company has also received support from Enterprise Singapore, a government agency in Singapore, helping the company sustain operations during the Covid-19 pandemic, it added.

TurtleTree Labs’ proprietary cell-based biotechnology, which the company says is the first of its kind, produces real milk without sourcing it from animals by using mammalian stem cells.

The 2019-founded startup cultures mammary gland cells, which are sourced from stem cells and react with a formula that causes them to lactate, according to the company. The startup is focused on human breast milk and cow milk, it said in the statement.

“In the next couple of years, I think we will see cell-based food companies working towards a proof of scale of the commercial viability of their technology. This could include assessing the scalability of their growth media, engineering and storage,” Co-founder and Chief Strategist of TurtleTree Labs Max Rye said in the email to Jumpstart.

He added that consumers interest in cell-based food could increase with more people willing to try it, “as long as there is transparency behind the technology used and the safety of such cellular technology.”

TurtleTree Labs is going after the global dairy market, which is expected to swell from $673.8 billion in 2019 to over $1 trillion by 2024. Another market providing massive opportunity for a company like TurtleTree Labs is the infant formula market-the $45 billion industry as of 2018 is expected to cross $100 billion by 2026.

TurtleTree Labs and other companies in the food innovation space that are looking to create alternatives for animal-based protein and dairy, therefore, have immense growth potential.

Commenting on trends in the APAC region, Rye said, “Plant-based and cell-based alt food will look to start catering more to the diverse palette of the people in the Asia Pacific region. This could mean either new plant-based or cell-based meat products (e.g. pork belly) or products with more Asian flavor profiles.”

Rye further added that there was room for the development of regulation within the new foods space in the APAC region that “acknowledges the advent of the cell-based food category.”

Like its food counterparts, dairy farming is responsible for massive environmental devastation, as well as cruel farming practices such as forceful impregnation. This has led to a rise in the practice of conscious consumerism, where consumers are careful of where they shop and what they eat, allowing alternative protein, dairy and edibles companies to make headway in global markets.

Founder of Green Monday Group David Yeung said in the statement that foodtech innovation in Asian markets was “way overdue”.

“If the rapidly deteriorating climate change situation isn’t enough to convince the world, the pandemic surely hammers home the urgency that we need to overhaul the food system for the sake of public health, food safety, and food security,” he added.

Header image courtesy of TurtleTree Labs

This post has been updated with responses from TurtleTree Labs


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