Inside a lab on the west coast of Singapore, the future of food production is being developed — or fermented, to be more precise. As scientists take readings from an array of temperature-controlled, stainless-steel bioreactors, there is a shared feeling of anticipation and excitement, knowing that the fermentation technology being developed could be the solution to feeding the world’s growing population.
The company is ScaleUp Bio, a local contract development and manufacturing organization that provides submerged microbial and precision fermentation for food-tech startups. Launched in 2022, ScaleUp Bio is the result of a joint venture between global nutrition leader ADM and Nurasa, which is wholly owned by Singapore’s global investment company Temasek. The innovative technology ScaleUp Bio is developing represents an efficient process for the production of essential food ingredients such as proteins. In the long term, this will reduce costs compared to traditional agricultural methods and help make food production more sustainable.
This is critical due to the world’s growing population, the impact of global warming, and the urgent need to reduce global carbon emissions. Currently, food systems account for 70% of the water extracted from nature and 60% of biodiversity loss, according to a report by Deloitte. They also generate up to one-third of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. With meat production projected to nearly double by 2050, according to the Good Food Institute (GFI), the race is on to revolutionize food production in ways that will reduce land use and feed people using fewer resources.
With the upcoming launch of two dedicated food-grade precision fermentation facilities with capacities of up to 10,000 liters in Singapore, ScaleUp Bio is partnering with pioneering startups seeking to solve the world’s food-production problem. This will be done by providing research and development assistance, and helping startups bring their cutting-edge products from the lab bench to the dinner table.
“We are intent on expediting industry growth, and we are very fortunate to be situated in Singapore, which has highly progressive regulations for the commercial production and sale of alternative foods,” Francisco Codoner, chief executive officer of ScaleUp Bio, said.
“We are intent on expediting industry growth, and we are very fortunate to be situated in Singapore.”
– Francisco Codoner, CEO, ScaleUp Bio.
Strategically located in the heart of Southeast Asia, Singapore is a top destination for business, economic competitiveness, and talent. To strengthen its food security, diversify its economy, and find solutions to the world’s need for more sustainable methods of food production, the Singapore Government has invested over $220 million in the agrifood sector. There are more than 60 alternative protein startups active right now in Singapore, employing over 700 people.
“Singapore is currently leading in government-sponsored initiatives for alternative proteins and cultured meat,” said Dr. John Shyu, chief scientific officer and global applications director of US-based Corning Life Sciences, a leading provider of high-quality, life-science products. Thanks to support from Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR), Corning Life Sciences was able to quickly scale up its operations in the region as it conducts research and development into platforms that can support cultivated meat production.
“A*STAR made it very easy for Corning Life Sciences to invest in Singapore as an innovation hub. We believe this partnership truly shows how fast vision and reality can come together,” Shyu said. “So far, no other region has provided this type of assistance, infrastructure, and ecosystem.”
Supporting the growing food-tech industry
While the long-term prospects for the future food industry are positive, the industry faces a variety of immediate challenges — ones that Singapore is committed to overcoming.
“Precision fermentation technology in the food sector is nascent, under-resourced, and typically based in the West — and very few facilities are dedicated to food applications, especially for food-tech startups,” said ScaleUp Bio’s Codoner. There is also a lack of expertise in R&D, business advisory services, and, crucially, the need for significant funding to support the testing of products, their launch, and distribution.
Global investment in fermentation companies reached $842 million in 2022, and cultivated meat companies raised $896 million, according to GFI Group. However, these figures represent a decrease year-on-year. This results from a range of macroeconomic factors, including inflation and reduced global trade, according to an article in Food Navigator, presenting a challenging financial environment for food-tech companies.
In response, Singapore and its diverse, well-connected ecosystem of food-tech companies, such as ScaleUp Bio and Corning Life Sciences, are supporting ambitious startups with scalable facilities, specialized expertise, and top-tier funding opportunities.
ScaleUp’s Codoner said that Singapore is becoming a preferred launchpad for global food-tech companies in Asia, particularly those in bioprocessing, focusing on fermentation and cultivated meat.
“Businesses benefit from a truly forward-looking environment that welcomes global innovators, providing a hub for innovation and a gateway to regional markets,” he added. “Singapore is home to some of the most intelligent people on the planet, offering business advisory and exposure to blue-chip investors.”
Despite the sector’s immediate funding challenges, Singapore is committed to being a consistent partner and helping companies with similar goals achieve success. As the urgency to reduce emissions and feed the world’s growing population increases, Singapore’s forward-looking support of the food-tech industry could prove the key to unlocking the world’s food problem.
This post was created by Insider Studios with the Singapore Economic Development Board.
The post How Singapore is helping ‘future-food’ companies scale up appeared first on Business Insider.