While TurtleTree is able to produce animal milk, it is currently focusing its efforts on producing human breast milk. The reason is simple: The price point of animal milk is simply too competitive to sustain.
“Initially, we were very gung-ho and mission-driven – we wanted to use our technology to make cow’s milk and help reduce animal suffering. But then potential investors told us, ‘Cow’s milk at the supermarket is $2 a gallon. When do you think your version can reach that kind of price point?’,” TurtleTree’s CEO Lin Fengru, says. “That’s when we decided to narrow down our focus and zoom in on the functional benefits of human milk.”
As much as lab-grown human breast milk will alleviate the struggles of mothers unable to breastfeed, the company’s current main purpose is to also encourage adults to consume it due to its health benefits. The proteins from human breast milk help build immunity and promote gut health, while its complex sugars enhance cognitive function, explains Fengru.
Given that the manufacturing does not require livestock or farmland, it requires far less land and water – which translates to a lesser impact on the environment. It also opens up doors of opportunity for production in Singapore in the near future. “In Singapore, we can’t have a bunch of cows, but we can have a bunch of bioreactors to produce milk”, she says.
TurtleTree’s decision to operate out of Singapore is a very conscious one. Not only were two of the four co-founders already based there, but the local government is very supportive of food tech initiatives. The country has a goal to produce 30 percent of its own food by 2030 (they currently import over 90 percent). As a result, the Singaporean government gives more support to startups to get new products to market more quickly.
However, TurtleTree won’t be selling its cell-based milk directly to consumers. Instead, the company plans to license out its milk-producing technology, for which it has a provisional patent, to large dairy companies as a SaaS model.
Since the milk is cell-based, there’s a huge amount of versatility to their product. Their scientists can play with the settings to create milk that’s lactose-free and has different cholesterol and fat levels. So, for example, they could make healthier milk for those following strict diets, or ultra-creamy options for gourmet chefs.
According to herworld.com and thespoon.tech