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.