Young entrepreneur lauded for making a meal of crickets

Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Culture, Community and Youth Low Yen Ling with the National Youth Entrepreneurship Awards' university and open category winners (from far left) Daryl Lim, Johann Wah and Sean Neo at the Singapore Discovery
Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Culture, Community and Youth Low Yen Ling with the National Youth Entrepreneurship Awards' university and open category winners (from far left) Daryl Lim, Johann Wah and Sean Neo at the Singapore Discovery Centre last Friday.PHOTO: ACTION COMMUNITY FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Altimate Nutrition co-founder Gavriel Tan with his company's protein bar made from cricket flour.
Altimate Nutrition co-founder Gavriel Tan with his company's protein bar made from cricket flour.ST FILE PHOTO

He may be 20 but Mr Gavriel Tan is already a budding entrepreneur, having started a business which turns insects into food for human consumption.

According to Altimate Nutrition, which Mr Tan co-founded, it is Singapore's first company to tap the insect world this way.

The start-up aims to alleviate key social issues like food insecurity, climate change and hunger.

The firm has already used flour extracted from baked freeze-dried crickets to make protein bars that are now pending approval from the Singapore Food Agency for local distribution and consumption.

Meanwhile, it is working with foreign distributors in countries such as Malaysia.

"We are expecting to develop and launch new flavours for our protein bars and introduce other insect types such as mealworms. Most insects are actually safe to eat and actually contain more nutrients and are far more sustainable," said Mr Tan.

The Republic Polytechnic graduate in biotechnology took up a diploma plus certificate in business innovation and entrepreneurship while in school, and co-founded the start-up when he took part in the exclusive entrepreneurship immersion programme in his poly. 

Last Friday, he received the gold award under the post-secondary education category at the National Youth Entrepreneurship Awards 2021, which was held at the Singapore Discovery Centre.

The award ceremony was jointly organised by Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE), non-profit organisation *Scape and Edge, the youth wing of ACE.

A total of eight awards were presented under four categories: post-secondary education; university and open; impact entrepreneur of the year; and *Scape most innovative entrepreneur.

Mr Sean Neo, 27, co-founder of Crunch Cutlery, received the bronze award under the university and open category. The supply chain management student at the Singapore University of Social Sciences has been advocating sustainability practices for years.

Crunch Cutlery aims to solve the problems of plastic waste and poor urban nutrition by encouraging people to eat their cutlery with regular meals.

Its first product - crunch spoons - is made from wheat flour, chia seeds, buckwheat, coconut flour, chickpeas, psyllium husks, brown sugar, salt and emulco, a type of food flavouring.

Crunch spoons are currently used in dessert shops such as An Acai Affair and Cornercove.

Crunch Cutlery is also looking to partner with businesses offering event and catering services, such as Grain and Fairmont hotel, said Mr Neo. "For these events, we will provide sweet or savoury spoons for canapes or even as door gifts. We are also looking to expand our products to food delivery services."

Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Culture, Community and Youth Low Yen Ling, who was the guest of honour, presented the awards.

Mr Dominic Ang, chief executive officer of ACE, said: "We received a very strong field of participants this year amidst the backdrop of the global pandemic. The jury panel had a hard time discerning the winners, a testament to the resiliency of our youth."

Correction note: An earlier version of this story said Mr Gavriel Tan was a double diploma student at Republic Polytechnic. The polytechnic has since clarified that he was not a double diploma student but had taken an additional diploma plus certificate.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2021, with the headline 'Young entrepreneur lauded for making a meal of crickets'. Subscribe