Cell-cultured dairy company maker TurtleTree closes $30M in Series A
Singapore’s TurtleTree successfully closed a $30 million Series A funding round led by Verso Capital. This investment is one of the largest rounds to date in Asia’s cell-based food sector and brings TurtleTree’s total investment figure to $40 million
A large portion of this Asian startup’s R&D will take place in California. In September, TurtleTree launch an R&D facility in Sacramento, and its Chief Strategy Officer Max Rye said this location will become the nexus for developing the functional ingredients and proteins found in milk. “We can now set our sights on turning ambitions to reality, starting with our U.S.-based expansion plans and then moving on to the development and manufacture of our first consumer-ready products," Rye said. Founded in 2019, this startup is already planning to launch its first commercial product: lactoferrin, a nutrient that is naturally occurring in both human and cow milk that is renowned for its immunity-supporting capabilities. No date was associated with the announcement of this launch, but the company did specify that its lactoferrin would be created in a cell-based process to mimic the expression of this nutrient as found in human milk. Originally, TurtleTree was founded to replicate human milk in a laboratory setting. Such a lofty mission, if successful, has the potential to revolutionize infant nutrition as well as grant access to a range of complex nutrients that could be used as a value-add for adult drinks and beverages to help fight inflammation and improve gut health, according to a statement from the company this summer. However, this summer, TurtleTree announced that it was expanding its portfolio beyond human milk to incorporate functional aimal dairy products into its cell-cultured R&D efforts. This functional food arm will exist in parallel to its infant nutrition arm. Initially, the company is working with bovine milk. Animal-free dairy is a segment that is gaining steam, and so investing in scaling capabilities has the potential to keep TurtleTree at the head of the pack. However, there are several other competitors in the infant nutrition segment, including Biomilq and Helaina that are looking to cell-cultured dairy to disrupt the category. Outside of infant nutrition, the Singaporean startup faces even stiffer competition from innovators like Perfect Day that are striving to discover methods to create milk without the animal. Nevertheless, TurtleTree is attracting the attention of large investors like Verso Captial, an investment firm that was involved in providing funding to food-tech titans Impossible Foods and Eat Just. And Verso expressed its confidence that TurtleTree is on a similar growth path. “We are confident in TurtleTree's potential as a cell-based technology platform that will transform the food industry,” said the investment firm’s managing partner Julien Machot. Not only that, but along with finances, “VERSO Capital will share its wealth of knowledge in corporate finance and operations to help the company validate its unit economics and the overall business plan with its very first key accounts."
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