Fengru Lin (Singapore Entrepreneur)

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Fengru Lin
TurtleTree Labs Fengru Lin.png
Born1988
EducationBachelor of Science (Information Systems)
Alma materSingapore Management University

Fengru Lin (born 1988) is the co-founder and chief executive officer of TurtleTree Labs, a biotechnology startup specialising in the production of milk using cell-based technology.[1][2] Based in Singapore, TurtleTree Labs is reportedly the world’s first company of its kind.[3][4] In 2020, Fengru Lin appeared alongside entrepreneurs such as Val Yap and Khairul Rusydi on EDGE’s ‘35 Under 35’ list, a compilation of entrepreneurs who have made an impact in Singapore’s startup ecosystem.[5]

Background[edit | edit source]

Education[edit | edit source]

Fengru Lin is an alumna of CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School, having studied there from 2001 to 2004. She then furthered her studies at Singapore Management University (SMU), graduating in 2011 with a double degree in information systems management and marketing.[6][7]

Early career[edit | edit source]

After graduating from university in 2011, Fengru Lin worked as an account manager at Collis Asia (now UL LLC), where she handled sales and business development for about three years.[6] It was during this time that she picked up the skills needed to manage her own business. In an interview with FoodHack, she was quoted to have said:

“When I joined (Collis Asia), there was (sic) 200 people. And the head of the company, the CEO, he was really focused and very good with processes. So there I saw him grow the company two to three times over three years. In that whole course, I learnt about how to manage a large team, how to be relentlessly detail-oriented.”[3]

After leaving Collis Asia, she worked for the American software company, Salesforce and subsequently had a one-year stint at Google before establishing TurtleTree Labs.[6][8]

Entrepreneurship[edit | edit source]

Max Rye and Fengru Lin of TurtleTree Labs. Photo from CNA Luxury.

Co-founder of TurtleTree Labs[edit | edit source]

The three co-founders of TurtleTree Labs. Photo from source.

Fengru Lin co-founded TurtleTree Labs in 2019 alongside Max Rye.[9] In July 2020, her company emerged as the winner of the annual The Liveability Challenge, a global competition that showcases the most innovative ideas for the sustainability cause.[10] Upon winning the competition, Fengru Lin and her team received a $1 million prize fund from the Temasek Foundation. Speaking about TurtleTree Labs' role in the food technology sector, she said:

"When it comes to plant-based dairy alternatives, they are great for replacing the fluid, milk-drinking market. But when it comes to functionality, by-products such as cheese, butter, cream, and yoghurt need to be recreated with fresh raw milk... By producing animal milk, our technology is aiming to plug into the manufacturing of these by-products as well."[11]

In October 2020, TurtleTree Labs won the top prize of US$500,000 at the Entrepreneurship World Cup, a competition for startup companies to gain business and investment opportunities.[12] TurtleTree Labs has also received support from government bodies such as Enterprise Singapore, the Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star); among others.[8][13]

Beginnings[edit | edit source]

Before establishing TurtleTree Labs, Fengru Lin frequently visited dairy farms around Asia to source for quality cow milk in order to make her own cheese.[14] During her travels, she witnessed poor farming conditions and noticed that it was common for cows to be given excessive hormonal treatments.[11] Fengru Lin shared the following observations with The Guardian:

“Hormones and antibiotics are being pumped into the cows. As a result, the milk quality really suffers. They are impregnating the cow just to get her milk, again and again, every year. And the amount of methane cows create – 37% of global emissions.”[15]

Fengru Lin and Max Rye entered a partnership after meeting at a Google event where the latter was an invited speaker who shared about cell-based meats.[16] Speaking about the meaning behind the company's name and logo, Fengru Lin said:

"Turtles and trees are symbols of longevity, and we believe in the longevity of the animals and planet."[16]

Product development & partnerships[edit | edit source]

In a radio interview with Money FM 89.3, Fengru Lin said that TurtleTree Labs can produce milk that contains less lactose to cater to consumers with lactose intolerance.[17] In October 2020, TurtleTree Labs expanded its focus to also produce breast milk after its investors noted that infant milk formula production is also a lucrative industry.[14] Speaking to the eco-advocacy website Green Queen, Fengru Lin said the following:

“Singapore is such a special place to build this technology. We have the trust of regional mums flying in to buy baby formula back for their children. To tie in with Singapore’s food security goals, TurtleTree is able to support Singapore’s goals of producing 30% of our nutritional needs by 2030.”[18]

Fengru Lin and her team plan to unveil TurtleTree Labs’ first glass of cell-produced cow milk by April 2021, together with other products such as cheese, butter and breast milk to showcase to potential investors. By the end of 2021, she plans to set up a pilot bioreactor plant that produces 500 litres of milk daily.[1] TurtleTree Labs is also setting up a foundation for their work with endangered animal species such as elephants and snow leopards. It is reported that the Smithsonian Institute, a global institution for research and heritage preservation, has reached out to TurtleTree Labs to support snow leopard cubs that are born in captivity.[18]

References/ Citations[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Elangovan, Navene. “Homegrown company looks to create breast milk without the need for mothers”. TODAYonline. December 26, 2019. Accessed on 24 November 2020.
  2. About the Company”. TurtleTree Labs. n.d. Accessed on 24 November 2020.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Anaturk, Arman. “The Secret Sauce: Interview with Fengru Lin from Turtle Tree Labs”. FoodHack. July 2, 2020. Accessed on 24 November 2020.
  4. Jung, James. "TurtleTree Labs, a Singapore Startup Making Milk Without Cows, Secures Funding". Asia Tech Daily. January 20, 2020. Accessed on 30 November 2020.
  5. EDGE 35 Under 35”. EDGE - Youth Entrepreneurship Singapore. n.d. Accessed on 25 November 2020.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Fengru L. LinkedIn. n.d. Accessed on 24 November 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.linkedin.com/in/fengru/
  7. "TURTLETREE LABS: MILKING THE ENVIRONMENT FOR GOOD". Singapore Management University Institute of Innovation & Entrepreneurship. July 21, 2020. Accessed on 30 November 2020.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Business For Good. "Ep. 29: TurtleTree Labs". YouTube. November 15, 2019. Accessed on 30 November 2020.
  9. Choo Yun Ting. "Start-ups' innovative ideas: Lab-made milk, matching migrant workers to jobs". The Straits Times. August 21, 2020. Accessed on 30 November 2020.
  10. Tan, Cheryl. “Local biotech start-up TurtleTree Labs wins $1m green challenge with cell-based milk”. The Straits Times. July 9, 2020. Accessed on 24 November 2020.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Yip, Myra. "TurtleTree Labs: The Singaporean Food Tech Startup Engineering Cell-Based Milk". Hive Life. August 26, 2020. Accessed on 30 November 2020.
  12. Ho, Grace. “Local start-up wins global award for making milk without the need for cows or humans”. The Straits Times. October 25, 2020. Accessed on 24 November 2020.
  13. "Singapore start-up TurtleTree Labs Contributes to Raising Food Self-sufficiency with Cell-cultured Milk". JETRO. August 12, 2020. Accessed on 30 November 2020. Retrieved from The Liveability Challenge.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Fengru Lin, Co-Founder And CEO Of TurtleTree Labs- Clean Milk For People And Planet Via Cell-Based Methods!”. AsiaTechDaily. September 18, 2020. Accessed on 24 November 2020.
  15. Kleeman, Jenny. "‘I want to give my child the best’: the race to grow human breast milk in a lab". The Guardian. November 14, 2020. Accessed on 30 November 2020.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Stewart, Melissa. "This Singapore biotech start-up is making milk without animals or humans". CNA Luxury. Accessed on 30 November 2020.
  17. Weekends: Fengru Lin & Max Rye on producing milk sustainably using cells”. Money FM 89.3. November 15, 2020. Accessed on 25 November 2020.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Wee, Marie. “She talks about diversity in the STEM industry, and what she’s learned about hiring based on expertise.”. A Magazine Singapore. August 19, 2020. Accessed on 24 November 2020.