Insect farming company wins social enterprise start-up of the year at President's Challenge awards

President Halimah Yacob with Insect Feed Technologies chief executive Sean Tan (left) and the President’s Challenge Social Enterprise Awards committee chairman Tan Soo Nan. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - A company that diverted more than 40 tonnes of food waste from landfills over the last year to feed the black soldier flies it farmed for animal food has been recognised for the work it does for food waste sustainability.

Insect Feed Technologies won the Social Enterprise Start-up of the Year at the 6th biennial President's Challenge Social Enterprise Awards (PCSEA) ceremony on Thursday (Dec 2). The company also hired elderly workers who were displaced during the pandemic, providing jobs like farm operators.

It was the first time the awards, recognising outstanding social enterprises for their positive impact on the community, had been given out since the virus outbreak.

They were conferred in person by President Halimah Yacob at an event at the Istana attended by around 50 people. President Halimah said it was heartening to see social enterprises continue to support vulnerable groups who are the most susceptible to the negative impacts of the pandemic.

"Since I last conferred the President's Challenge Social Enterprise Awards in 2019, social enterprises have had to contend with massive disruptions and a plethora of new challenges resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic," she said.

"It is truly an understatement to say that everyone here today, as well as the many more social enterprises that have stayed true to their cause, have demonstrated remarkable grit and resilience in dealing with the pandemic so far," she added.

Three awards were given out at the event organised by the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise, raiSE. Social enterprises are businesses that have specific social objectives.

Madam Halimah noted how 64 per cent of social enterprises are led by women, and 40 per cent by individuals under the age of 35. Many of them, such as Amazing Speech Therapy led by Ms Beatrice Teo, which provides diagnostic and treatment services for those with speech, voice and swallowing difficulties, have stepped up to provide for needs that are not being met.

"This is a sign of the times, where the shift towards greater diversity and inclusion has allowed more talented and purpose-driven individuals to assume leadership positions and pave the way for a more equitable future," Madam Halimah said.

Mr Sean Tan, 28, the chief executive of Insect Feed Technologies, said that even though it was tough to start a company in the middle of a pandemic, the issue of food waste sustainability could not wait.

"We wanted to evaluate how we convert food waste, which is an environmental problem. It's a big problem not just in Singapore, it is a pressing issue we needed to address," he added.

Kowabunga! Global was awarded the Social Enterprise of the Year award, for its work to promote the awareness of sustainability issues in children. The company also launched a fund to provide financial support for its employees and students.

(From left) Ms Aileen Tan, chairman of the Singtel Touching Lives Fund, Mr Taufiq Yahya, CEO of Kowabunga! Global and Mr Sean Tan, CEO of Insect Feed Technologies. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

"We feel very strongly about the issue of climate change and sustainability, and we wanted to make a difference, so we felt that the best way is to actually educate the young ones, as they're the ones who will become change-makers in the future", said Mr Taufiq Yahya, 37, its chief executive.

The second Social Enterprise Champion of the Year (Corporate) award was won by Singtel for its continued efforts to invest in local and regional start-ups.

Ms Aileen Tan, chairman of the Singtel Touching Lives Fund, said: "Our efforts to nurture digital innovators through funding and access to our network and resources is part of our approach to address the challenges they face in building capacity and partnerships, and scaling their businesses."

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