New Temasek entity to drive sustainable food adoption, back food tech firms in Asia

A fireside chat during the launch of the Singapore International Agri-Food Week on Nov 15, 2021.
A fireside chat during the launch of the Singapore International Agri-Food Week on Nov 15, 2021.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - State-owned global investor Temasek on Monday (Nov 15) launched a new company to drive the adoption of sustainable food and build an ecosystem for food tech across Asia.

The firm, called the Asia Sustainable Foods Platform, and the Government's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) will invest more than $30 million over the next three years in a Food Tech Innovation Centre. The facility was first announced by Temasek last year to accelerate the commercialisation of food technologies.

The platform is also exploring joint ventures with Germany's Cremer and United States-headquartered ADM, both global industry experts in plant-based and microbial proteins.

The announcement comes at the start of the inaugural Singapore International Agri-Food Week, organised by Temasek in partnership with government agencies.

Over 1,000 industry leaders are expected to gather virtually and in person at Marina Bay Sands from Monday to Thursday to discuss supply chain resilience, urban food systems, alternative proteins and affordable nutrition.

In a keynote speech on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat noted that an estimated total investment of US$1.55 trillion (S$2.09 trillion) would be needed by 2030 to meet food requirements in Asia.

Temasek has invested more than US$8 billion in agri-food over the past decade, and Singapore has concentrated on research and development and food science capabilities, he added.

Mr Heng then outlined ways in which advancing food innovation can achieve more efficient production, reduce waste and cut down on carbon footprint.

"Meat is a major contributor of food-related carbon emissions," he said. "Alternative protein is much more sustainable compared to traditional cattle and poultry farming."

Addressing the challenges behind scaling up production in alternative proteins is one focus of the Asia Sustainable Foods Platform, said Temasek's deputy head of enterprise development Yeoh Keat Chuan in a media briefing, as he noted the company's support for Singapore's "30 by 30" vision to produce 30 per cent of its nutritional needs by 2030.

Industry veteran Mathys Boeren, with more than 25 years of experience in companies like Unilever and Symrise, has been appointed chief executive of the Platform.

Mr Yeoh added: "This new platform aims to provide solutions and support for food tech companies as they go through product development to commercial scale-up.

"The key differentiating factor here is our end-to-end enabler, operator and investor capabilities."

For promising start-ups, the Platform aims to play the roles of "enabler" by dispensing R&D advisory and pilot-scale facilities, "operator" by furnishing manufacturing capabilities and market insights, and "investor" by providing networks and capital.

The upcoming Food Tech Innovation Centre, which is expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2022, will support the process by granting access to a food-grade pilot scale facility with equipment, space and A*Star's know-how.

The centre will host within its premises the global R&D and innovation centre of its first partner Next Gen Foods, a company that makes plant-based meat.

The next step is access to manufacturing capacity - and that is where the partnerships with ADM and Cremer come in, said Mr Yeoh.

Cremer will add to the Asia Sustainable Foods Platform's manufacturing capabilities for plant-based protein products, which relies on high moisture extrusion. This new technology specialises in producing texturised proteins which more closely resemble meat than that made with other techniques, Cremer's sustainable nutrition general manager Damian Kreuger said.

Cremer's expertise in contract manufacturing and operating other high moisture extrusion plants globally will support a sector where few companies in Asia have mature capabilities in, said Temasek.

The Platform has also signed an agreement with ADM, with support from the Economic Development Board. This partnership hopes to similarly enable contract development and manufacturing services, but this time for microbial proteins produced by precision fermentation.

Smaller food tech firms can then tap ADM's global capabilities and expertise to efficiently scale their fermentation innovations through to the pilot scale.

"It would be the first of its kind in Singapore, serving both start-ups and mature businesses," said ADM's Asia-Pacific president Joe Taets, adding that Asia's food industry was on "the cusp of a new era".

Managing director of investment (agri-food) at Temasek Anuj Maheshwari noted that food expenditure of Asian consumers is expected to double to US$8 trillion by 2030.

"Alternative protein is going to be in big demand. What the Asia Sustainable Foods Platform will do is allow food tech companies to unravel the opportunity in Asia in a much faster way," he said. "We can lean in with these companies and play a catalytic role in growing their businesses in Asia."