The pandemic has shed light on just how vulnerable the global food system is, and changed the way we look at how food is grown and consumed, and more specifically how its transported across borders and into different markets. One country that has suffered ravenous implications due to Covid is Singapore, whose government has uncovered plans to create a more localized food system for its countries population. Due to this, Singapore is fast becoming Asias food tech superpower establishing itself as an important location to watch over the next few months when it comes to food innovation and funding.
Asia has now been cited as the continent to watch in terms of innovation in foodtech including plant-based and cell-based development. In a report by Green Queen Media last February, Asia was on track to become the leader of the global alternative protein revolution, and 8 months down the line that hasnt changed.
Since then Singapore has been forging itself as the new food tech ecosystem in the continent, with the government appointing important funding and a number of investors and entrepreneurs leading the city to help promote positive change.
Singapore imports 90% of its food
Arguably the biggest driver of this sudden push for food innovation is that Singapore currently imports 90% of its food, which has caused extra problems during the pandemic. However, it seems that this import reliance is actually helping Singapore to innovate faster and better in foodtech than other countries.
In the US, plant-based and cell-based meat startups fight harsh competitors in the market, including massive meat producers and often find themselves struck with labeling and distribution problems on their journey to commercialisation. Thanks to Singapore’s meat supply being largely imported its easier to push forward on new developments and regulations for alternative proteins. In fact, Singapore is home to one of Asia’s highest funded and fastest growing clean meat startups; Shiok Meats.
Even pre-covid (remember that?!) the country was already investing in the future of its food system. Last year, the city-state’s National Research Foundation allocated $535 million (USD) to strengthen R&D developments in cell therapy manufacturing, digital technology and sustainable urban food production. Now, they have stepped it up a notch and the whole country has become a hotbed for food innovation: food driven accelerators are offering a lifeline for startups and individual companies themselves are finding ways to power a more localized food system.
Food driven accelerators
Amid pandemic induced strained supply chains, the Singaporean government has decided to allocate $21 million this year as part of its 30×30 initiative, which aims to have 30 percent of Singapore’s food produced locally by 2030. The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) will distribute grants to local agrifood characters who are capable of increasing domestic production across the three main categories of food consumption – eggs, fish, and leafy vegetables.
To help further this ´30 by 30´policy the government also launched the Singapore Food Bowl back in May– a food sustainability program run by impact fund and accelerator GROW. Due to Singapore’s lack of available and arable land, this program will look for cutting-edge innovations, alternative protein production solutions and crop yield improvement technology, with complementary solutions to fight food waste and promote traceability across the whole supply chain.
Last July the 12 participating startups were announced, between them offering a range of innovative new solutions that offer opportunities for a stronger and more resilient future food system: Augmentus, CocoPallet, Crust Group, DiMuto, Fortuna Cools, Invertigro, ListenField, Lleaf, Mi Terro, Organic Technology Holdings, SingCell, Smoocht.
Food driven startups
The countries agtech sector is about to get another cash injection as Enterprise Singapore, the government agency committed to startups, reported last week that it will offer more than $40 million to various agtech and aquaculture driven startups, according to AgFunder News.
Within the agtech sector comfortably sits indoor farming which is another area begging for innovation in Singapore. Last year, local farms only produced 14 percent of the total amount of fresh greens consumed by the country, which offers a massive white space for startups able to grow fresh greens using less energy and water. Thankfully, due to Singapore’s vastly urbanized environment its the perfect setting for cutting-edge indoor farming/vertical farming technology. The countries leading indoor farming startup, SinGrow, which uses vertical farming tech to grow strawberries on a rack, offers a heavily sustainable solution that addresses each stage of a plant’s agricultural journey and breeds strawberry varieties that can adapt to humid weather.
Startups across Singapore are finding their feet and racking up heafty sums of investment between them. Next Gen announced its official launch a few weeks ago after closing a $2.2 million seed funding round. The startup is already establishing its R&D centre where it plans to develop its line of plant-based proteins with a production capacity of supplying over 9,000 restaurants. The company even has plans to take their brand global, looking at key alternative protein markets like China, the US and Europe over the next few years. The startup reported that its product line will be 100% vegan, sustainably made and contain only GMO-free ingredients.
Next gen foods isnt the only startup finding backing from investors. The Thai Union Group PCL (Thai Union) recently announced four new investments in the foodtech ecosystem through its recently created venture fund which supports companies developing alternative protein and functional nutrition. Among these four investments is Singapore-based diabetes foodtech innovator Alchemy Foodtech Pte. Ltd., which offers a slowly-digestible carbohydrate made from plant-based ingredients that is high in dietary fibre and prebiotics, striving to fight health concerns through food innovations and next gen technology.
Startups from across the pond
It isnt just Singapore-born startups adding to the countries innovation, even entrepreneurs from across the pond are investing in the countries future food tech ecosystem. USA´s Eat Just, known for its mung-bean based egg, recently announced that it is building a plant-based protein production facility in Singapore; their first facility in Asia and the largest in Singapore. Investment management company Proterra will offer up to $100 million towards the construction and operation of the facility.
Another US-based protein heavyweight that barely needs an introduction, yes we are talking about vegan burger veteran Impossible Foods, has also made waves across Asia this week as it debuted in grocery stores across Singapore and Hong Kong and announced plans to develop plant-based milk prototypes in the near future.
Just like the startups flagship product the burger patty, this vegan-friendly milk alternative will be made from plant protein and offer the same drinking experience as “regular milk” without sacrificing on taste or texture.
The above factors are just a smidgen of the reasons why Singapore is experiencing continued growth and innovation in the food tech space and we are sure that over the next few months, and eventually years, we will continue to see advances across the food supply chain including in agrifoodtech, alternative protein, packaging and other areas. Watch this space..
Interested in Asia´s foodtech innovation?
The 2020 Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Summit is going virtual! Join them live online on November 18-20 for 1-1 meetings, interactive group discussions and critical intelligence on supply chain resilience, urban food systems, alternative proteins and affordable nutrition. Sign up here.
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