SINGAPORE January 2020
 
New start-up aims to create artificial ‘breast milk’
 
A new start-up in Singapore is hoping to create a dent in the multi-billion dollar infant milk formula industry, by producing ‘artificial’ breast milk cultured from stem cells, which it claims no other company in the world has done before.
Singapore’s new start-up, Turtletree Labs, with its small laboratory team of 9 members, has found a way to generate milk from stem cells, and this new production process, which is pending patent, can produce the milk of any mammal.
Max Rye, Chief Technology Officer of Turtletree Labs estimated that the infant milk formula industry is currently valued at US$45 billion, and Turtletree will not compete in this market based on price as it plans to sell its product at a premium compared to other infant milk products in the market. Max is optimistic that customers will be willing to pay the premium as ‘breast milk’ is often considered more nutritious than formula milk. Max said, “We see (our milk) as a better product than other baby formula products found in the market.”
Milk generated from stem cells seems to be an idea conceptualised by the company’s CEO Lin Fengru which revolves around the same procedure as how alternative meat substitutes are produced. Ms Lin wanted better quality milk which is not effected by the use of hormones and poor animal hygiene in dairy farms. This resulted in the formation of Turtletree Labs.
Turtletree hopes to work with players from the infant milk formula industry to scale up its production of breast milk. It expects to produce its 1st batch of ‘breast milk’ in laboratory quantities by January 2020.
By April 2020, the team from Turtletree aims to debut a glass of cow milk, with different milk products such as cheese and butter, along with a glass of breast milk to investors and potential customers such as corporations that manufacture infant milk formula. It also aims to set up a pilot plant which can produce 500 litres of milk daily by the end of 2020. The plant will allow the team to showcase its technology to industry players, said Ms Lin.
When asked whether consumers are ready for such innovation, Max said that it is a matter of educating them that milk from stem cells is cleaner than milk from farms which may have hormones or chemicals infused, or milk from mothers who are unhealthy.
 

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