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New Company Developing Cell-Based Milk

Milk splash

(Manolo Franco, Pixabay)

20 Jan. 2020. A biotechnology start-up enterprise plans to produce milk directly from mammary cells in the lab without crops, animals, or farms. TurtleTree Labs, based in Singapore, announced today receiving initial seed funds, although the amount that investment is not disclosed.

The one year-old TurtleTree Labs aims to create milk from cells with the functionality and nutrition of dairy milk, but without the animals. The company plans to use synthetic biology processes to develop what it calls milk 3.0, following milk first from dairy farms, then derived later from plants, such as almond, soy, and oats.

In an essay, the company says its cell-based milk product will produce more authentic tasting dairy items like milk, cheese, and yogurt than plant-derived milk, and with less environmental impact than plant crops that require large amounts of water and use fossil fuels for harvest and transport to markets. In addition, says the company, the market for plant-based milk substitutes is concentrated mainly in urban areas in Western countries. Outside these big cities in the West, there’s a continuing demand for traditional dairy milk rather than plant-based substitutes.

TurtleTree Labs was founded last year by entrepreneurs Fengru Lin and Max Rye, with respective backgrounds in marketing and cloud computing, as well as cell biologist Rabail Toor. Lin is TurtleTree Labs’ CEO, while Rye is chief technology officer, and Toor is chief scientist.

“The seed funding will be used to further build out the company’s scientific team and to create additional prototypes,” says Rye in a company statement released through PR Newswire. “TurtleTree Labs plans to publicly debut the world’s first cultivated milk, and mother’s milk products, in the Spring.”

The financing, in what the company calls its pre-seed round, is led by Lever VC, a venture investor in alternative protein product companies, based in New York and Hong Kong. Lever VC funds companies developing plant- and cell-based meat, egg, and dairy alternatives. According to Crunchbase, Lever VC so far made five investments, all since October 2019, and as seed-stage funds. Joining the TurtleTree venture round are investment companies K2 Global and KBW Ventures.

“What TurtleTree Labs is doing is fascinating, and their technology could be a serious disruptor in the global dairy industry,” says Nick Cooney, Lever VC’s founder and managing partner. “They are the first company in the world producing real, whole milk from cell cultivation, which opens the door for safer, healthier and customized dairy products that can be produced with far fewer natural resources.”

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