Cow-free Milk Wins The Liveability Challenge 2020

By Robin Hicks 18 September, 2020

Lab grown milk takes top prize. See why & what other innovations placed from Eco-Business' Hicks

Food production is one of the world's key challenges, especially with a changing climate, which is why the theme for the 2020 Challenge was urban food production, circular packaging & decarbonisation
TurtleTree Lab's cell-based cow-free milk won the challenge as it avoids climate impact & animal welfare issues of dairy; even with 1% dairy industry (USD$700bn), it will have a big impact
Other prizes (investment & place on an accelerator programme) went to a an alternative film wrap made from shrimp shells & biodegradable plastics from methane gas

This article was originally published on Eco-Business on 8 Jul 2020. You can see the original article here.

An alternative to milk produced by cows has won the 2020 edition of The Liveability Challenge, an annual search for solutions to some of the biggest problems Southeast Asia’s cities face, organised by Eco-Business.

The innovative lab-grown milk concept, developed by Singapore-based biotechnology company TurtleTree Labs, emerged the winner in a field of six finalists from a field of more than 400 entries from 60 countries.

TurtleTree Labs’ cell-based milk wins 2020 Liveability Challenge…

…it avoids climate impact & animal welfare issues of traditional dairy

The company’s cell-based milk avoids the climate impact and animal welfare issues the $700 billion industrial dairy industry is associated with.

TurtleTree Labs will receive up to S$1 million (US$734,000) in funding for their project from the backer of The Liveability Challenge, Temasek Foundation, the philanthropic arm of government investment company Temasek.

Christina Lee, founder and CEO of sustainability consultancy Global Green Connect, and one of the judges, commented: “Cell-based products are well suited for an urban setting [like Singapore]. TurtleTree Labs has done a great job of scaling the product and making it price-competitive. Even if it wins one per cent share of the global dairy industry, it will have made a big environmental impact,” she said.

Even with 1% of dairy industry (USD700bn), it will have made a big environmental impact

The themes for this year’s Challenge, which was convened by circular economy investment firm Closed Loop Partners, were urban food production, circular packaging and decarbonisation.


The winning concept was chosen ahead of shortlisted solutions including a plant-based milk made from Bambara groundnuts, cell-based seafood, proteins made by fermented methane, packaging film and apparel made from milk waste, and a replacement for plastic film wrap made from crustacean shells.

A number of other prizes were awarded to the finalists. Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU), which produced the alternative film wrap made from shrimp shells, won a place on an accelerator programme with Global Green Connect, and a mentorship opportunity with Closed Looped Partners.

NTU’s Alterpacks concept won the popular vote among viewers of The Liveability Challenge on the Zoom webinar platform, coming out ahead of TurtleTree Labs, which was the second most popular solution.

Other prizes went to film wrap made from shrimp shells & biodegradable plastics from methane

India-based String Bio, which converts methane gas into monomers that can be used to make biodegradable plastics, was awarded a one-year venture building package at The Circularity Studio.


TurtleTree Labs also won a S$100,000 investment, introductions to at least 10 impact investors with mentoring, and a spot on a leading accelerator programme with Planet Rise.

One of the finalists, American firm Galy, which produces lab-grown cotton from plant stem cells, withdrew from the competition. It would have needed to conduct some of its business in Singapore, and the company felt that the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic would have made that difficult.

Last year’s The Liveability Challenge winner was a meat protein substitute made with microalgae developed by Sophie’s Kitchen, a California-based sustainable protein firm. In 2018, the inaugural year of the Challenge, Singapore-based RWDC Industries won with a material made from plant-based oil to replace single-use plastic.

Further Reading

  • Food Revolution 5.0: Digital Printing Meat – Food Revolution 5.0., clean meat… Hong Kong is there. Get the latest from Professor Kenneth Lee of Chinese University of Hong Kong and hear more on his 3D printed foie gras
  • 5 Reasons Plant-Based Will Be Unleashed In Asia – Are you ready for Asia’s plant-based revolution? David Yeung, Founder & CEO of Green Monday, shares 5 reasons its coming soon including that it is only a matter of time before the current global food system collapses
  • Diet, Food Waste & Kids In 5 Graphics – Agriculture emits as much greenhouse gas as electricity and this needs to change. CWR’s Woody Chan sees 3 ways to reduce this, from changing diets and cutting food waste to fewer kids
  • Can China’s “Milky-ways” Continue? – Consumption of dairy products in China has notably increased over the last 16 years. China Water Risk’s McGregor, Li & Chan take a look if these “milky-ways” can continue and also how much leading dairy companies (Chinese & foreign) are disclosing
  • Global Agriculture & Water Scarcity – With more than 25% of global agri grown in high water stress areas, WRI’s Frances Gassert tells us why tension between global crop production & water supply is expected to grow

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Robin Hicks
Author: Robin Hicks
Robin has lived and worked in Asia Pacific for the last 13 years, in Hong Kong, Australia and Singapore. He has almost 20 years experience in journalism, writing about media, government, technology and sustainability. Robin is currently the Deputy Editor of Eco-Business, where he reports on the latest trends in sustainability in Asia Pacific, as well as manages a network of writers across the region. He has a particular interest in plastic pollution, the palm oil trade and Southeast Asia's energy transition. Robin has a degree in Zoology from the University of Bristol in the UK, and spends his weekends as a volunteer for Singapore animal welfare charity ACRES. He is also a long-suffering supporter of West Ham United.
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