Singapore’s lab-grown milk startup Turtletree raises $3.2m seed round

Lab-grown milk startup Turtletree has raised $3.2 million in seed funding from investors including Green Monday Ventures, KBW Ventures, CPT Capital, Artesian and New Luna Ventures, the Singapore-based company said in a statement on Wednesday.

Max Rye, TurtleTree’s co-founder, said the fresh funding would be used to scale up the company’s operations and move towards commercialisation of its offerings.

TurtleTree’s co-founder and CEO Fengru Lin told DealStreetAsia via email the company expects to sign its first licensing contracts by the middle of 2021 and will then work towards developing products aimed at consumers.

Its seed round follows a pre-seed round announced in January, which was led by Lever VC, with participation from Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud’s KBW Ventures and K2 Global.

The company has also received support from the Singapore government, which is pursuing a “30 by 30” policy of having the city-state produce 30 per cent of its own food by 2030, up from around 10 per cent currently.

Bernice Tay, director for the food manufacturing division at government-linked entity Enterprise Singapore, said TurtleTree’s technology would help strengthen the city-state’s food diversification efforts and offered a novel solution for sustainable dairy production.

David Yeung, the founder of Green Monday Group, said food-tech innovation in Asia was 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,” Yeung said in the statement. “That explains why Green Monday Ventures is so excited to invest in and collaborate with TurtleTree Labs. We see immense possibilities in their biotech innovation platform.”

TurtleTree said it plans to focus on producing human breast milk first, followed by cow milk later.

The infant formula market was forecast to grow to $107.3 billion by 2026. That is at a compound annual growth rate of 10.85 per cent a year, from S$45.12 billion in 2018, according to a report from Fortune Business Insights.

The company previously has said it expects to find a market for this product within land-starved city-state Singapore, which lacks grazing land for cattle, but still has an appetite for dairy products such as cheese.

Earlier this year, TurtleTree’s Lin had explained to DealStreetAsia that the company’s technology isolates stem cells from milk and proliferates them – or increases the number of the cells – and then puts them into a lactation media, an environment similar to a breast, causing the cells to lactate. Later, the cells are filtered out and the end-product is milk, she said. She noted that the prospective product could fill a niche, catering to babies with milk allergies.

TurtleTree’s business model doesn’t necessarily call for the company to produce the milk on its own, with plans to essentially license the technology to other companies.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.