Today’s consumers are increasingly concerned about the conditions in which animals are raised and, in the case of dairy herds, the morality of exploiting their milk, not to mention the environmental impact (methane etc.). There are of course alternative options available that range from almond milk to coconut, rice, soy, or flax milk – all dairy-free. Still there’s the fear of losing out because milk gives you natural calcium – a mineral that’s important for healthy teeth and bones, and not everybody wants plant-based cheese.
Now Singapore-based TurtleTree Labs (TTL) believe they have found the perfect solution. Today the start-up company has announced the end of their pre-seed funding round (amount undisclosed) for its venture of producing milk from lab grown mammary gland cells.
Milk from Cell Cultivation
TTL’s technology is similar to that which BlueNalu uses for cell-based fish and that New Age Meats uses for pork, except rather than consuming the cells to eat, the stem cells will be used to make mammary glands and it’s their lactated by-product – the milk, which will be sold and consumed. TurtleTree Labs plans to license out its milk-producing technology, for which it has a provisional patent, to large dairy companies as a SaaS model rather than selling produce directly to consumers.
“We believe the entire landscape of human breast and traditional bovine milk will be transformed as a result of our technology” says TTL CEO Fengru Lin (pictured).
Back in December TTL said that it’s the human milk which it plans to roll out first (as a replacement for baby formula milk) because that’s the most price-conscious decision. As Lin told foodie magazine The Spoon, ‘[human milk]could sell at a much higher cost, so they could reach price parity more quickly than with, say, cow’s milk.‘ Currently TTL’s cultured milk, both human and cow costs around $138 per litre to produce.
Today’s pre-seed round, led by Lever VC, a venture capital fund specializing in alternative protein investments, included asset management company KBW Ventures and Silicon Valley VC firm, K2 Global. The founder of KBW, Saudi Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud is also an investor in Beyond Meat and Memphis Meats. He has announced plans to open a chain of vegan restaurants in the Middle East.
“What TurtleTree Labs is doing is fascinating, and their technology could be a serious disruptor in the global dairy industry,” said Nick Cooney, Founder and Managing Partner at Lever VC. “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.”