A*Star, alternative protein firm Perfect Day setting up joint R&D lab in Singapore

Perfect Day produces animal-free dairy proteins. PHOTO: PERFECT DAY/INSTAGRAM

SINGAPORE - Alternative protein company Perfect Day, which produces animal-free dairy proteins, is linking up with the Agency of Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) to set up a research and development lab here.

The lab, which will open in April 2021, will support the California-headquartered firm's global R&D activities. It will help ensure the accuracy, specificity and consistency of the firm's processes and products, which can be used to make milk, cheese and ice cream.

At the same time, Perfect Day will also hire and train a pool of researchers, scientists and engineers for microflora protein innovation in Singapore, helping to develop the local R&D talent and exposing them to high-value opportunities.

It anticipates that its workforce in Singapore will be about 10 per cent of its headcount in the near term, said Perfect Day co-founder Perumal Gandhi. The firm currently has about 200 employees.

Announcing the lab on Monday (Dec 21) during a visit to A*Star, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing noted how the agri-food tech sector is one of growing importance in Singapore's economy as the world looks for innovative, cost-effective and sustainable food solutions to feed its growing population.

The sector remains a bright spot amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has disrupted and weakened food supply chains globally, he added.

"Leveraging on Singapore's unique farm-to-fork ecosystem and track record for technical capabilities, quality branding and intellectual property protection, we aim to capture a significant share of the economic opportunities in the agri-food tech sector," Mr Chan said.

There are increasing opportunities for Singapore to grow its sustainable food industry here and in the region, he added, noting how there has been growing interest among global companies to anchor new agri-food capabilities here.

(From left) Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, Agency of Science, Technology and Research assistant CEO Ng Huck Hui, and Perfect Day co-founder Perumal Gandhi, looking at some of Perfect Day's products made with animal-free dairy protein. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY

For example, German indoor vertical farming firm &ever is setting up a farm in Singapore which will produce 500 tonnes of vegetables a year, and also a global R&D centre which will collaborate with local partners to reduce energy consumption and optimise yield.

Processing facility and equipment giant Buhler has also partnered fragrances and flavours company Givaudan to set up a dedicated plant-based food innovation centre in Singapore, which will work with food processing companies, start-ups and researchers to provide expertise in developing plant-based food products.

The opening of the Agri-Food Innovation Park in the second quarter of 2021 will also further catalyse innovation in the sector, bringing together high-tech farming and associated R&D activities to discover synergies along value chains, Mr Chan said.

It will also serve as a better base to attract companies, R&D talent and investment into Singapore, he added.

The Government is building a vibrant cluster of financing firms across various stages and agri-food accelerators, and aims to build up the talent pool with expertise to deploy more than $90 million of capital in agri-tech companies, Mr Chan said.

Singapore may not be able to scale up production here, but it looks to position itself to attract investments and the high intellectual property components of the global value chain here.

While the Republic has ambitions to have 30 per cent of its nutritional needs produced locally by 2030, it is also hoping to capture the growing needs of the Asia-Pacific market with its agri-tech capabilities, as the growing middle class in the region seeks out higher quality food products, he added.

"Overall, we are building up the entire ecosystem to enable Singapore to be a bright spot in this region for the new food industry that is much more sustainable, much more affordable and accessible to the markets in Asia and beyond," Mr Chan said.

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