Innovation Mission to Asia’s Alternative Proteins Hotspot, Singapore
In 2019, Singapore announced its national food strategy “30-by-30”, aiming to grow local produce from less than 10 percent currently to 30 percent by 2030. As the city-state is land constraint and has less than 1 percent of its land available for agricultural use, food technology in general and alternative proteins in special are an important way to enhance the nation’s food security. To capitalize on its rising position as a food technology hub, Singapore launched the annual Singapore International Agri-food Week (SIAW): a unique platform for world leading food industry players, startups, thinktanks, government representatives and investors among others. A public-private delegation headed by the Ministry of LNV was present at the 2022 edition, exploring bilateral cooperation in innovation and trade.
Innovation mission alternative proteins
As one of the world’s biggest alternative proteins hubs with over 250 companies working on the protein transition, the Netherlands provides a strong ecosystem for technology and innovation. The shift towards a restored balance between animal- and alternative proteins is an important pillar of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. This has led to the announcement of the allocation of a €60M grant for cellular agriculture from the National Growth Fund by the Netherlands Government.
To further strengthen the position of the ecosystem and to build on the national protein strategy, alternative proteins was selected as one of the priority areas for international innovation missions. Together with the Embassy of the Netherlands in Singapore, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) organized a mission to SIAW on 24 – 28 October with 16 companies and 22 representatives in total. The delegation covered cultivated meat and meat alternatives companies, intergovernmental organizations and representatives of an accelerator, a bank and universities. The aim of the mission was to explore both innovation and business collaboration with Singaporean players.
Singapore as an alternative proteins hotspot
What makes Singapore such a significant alternative proteins hub? As the first (and to date) only country in the world to approve the consumption of cultivated meat in 2020, Singapore has positioned itself as the regional leader in alternative proteins and novel foods. Over the course of the past five years, Singapore built an ecosystem which has attracted American brands like Impossible Foods and TiNDLE in addition to European brands like The Vegetarian Butcher. The city-state also houses a considerable amount of national cellular agriculture entrepreneurs such as Turtle Tree Labs for milk and Umami Meats for seafood. Following the introduction of cultivated chicken by Eat Just in 2020, Singapore opened Asia’s largest cultivated chicken facility (30,000 sq ft) in June 2022 which is expected to be up and running in 2023. In addition, Singapore’s ecosystem increasingly anticipates on human capital and research, for example by Nanyang Technological University which in 2021 launched its first undergraduate course in alternative meat as well as its ‘Future Ready Food Safety Hub’ for research.
Program innovation mission to SIAW 2022
The first day consisted of a full program of side visits and presentations, starting with a visit to Nanyang Technological University for a presentation and lab-tour by renowned Professor William Chen, director of the food science and technology program. The day proceeded with presentations by the Good Food Institute (GFI) APAC, Enterprise Singapore/Economic Development Board and AccelerAsia. The day ended with a tour to the Protein Innovation Centre by Bühler and Givaudan.
While the majority of the delegates attended the aforementioned tour, all delegates active in cellular agriculture as well as government representatives were invited to the Roundtable on Novel Food Regulations by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA). As the first regulatory body in the world to approve cultivated meat as safe for human consumption, the roundtable provided many valuable insights into SFA’s progressive framework which can be seen as a global leading example. The room was filled with regulators and governments from all over the world, including representatives of Australia and New Zealand, Canada and Israel who discussed their safety assessments for novel foods. Furthermore, GFI and the FAO shared perspectives on cultivated meat production and compliance requirements.
For the next half of the week, the program was focused on the Agri-Food Tech Expo Asia where the delegates joined a stand to demonstrate their brands, technology and research to the trade show’s visitors. In the sandbox area of the expo, RVO and the Netherlands Embassy organized a seminar called: “The Netherlands: Pioneers in Plant Based and Novel Foods”, which offered a program of both presentations and panel discussions. Willemien van Asselt of Top Sector provided insights into the Dutch national protein strategy and Ira van Eelen of Kind Earth Tech spoke about the Netherlands as the birthplace of cultivated meat. Two panel discussions focused on the Netherlands as a protein hub with representatives of Rabobank, Agrifirm, Oost NL, Startlife and Future Food Utrecht whereas the role of plant based proteins in restoring protein consumption was discussed with renowned Dutch companies Schouten Food, TOP B.V., Meatless and Revyve. Furthermore, there were pitches on cellular agriculture by Meatable, Mosa Meat and Wageningen University.
In addition to the Agri-Food Tech Expo Asia, SIAW offered two other anchor events in the same venue. Over the course of three days, the Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Summit brought together global food leaders to identify strategic priorities, which offered a stage for the CEO’s of Dutch companies Mosa Meat and Revyve to address the summit in panel discussions. On Thursday, the Global Agri-food Scientific Symposium showcased cutting edge research innovations for urban cities. Outside of the official program, many of the delegates took the opportunity for bilateral meetings and attended side events, as well as tasting sessions in the novel foods space.
In the presence of Ambassador Adema, manufacturer ESCO ASTER signed two MoUs with Dutch biotechnology food companies Mosa Meat and Meatable. ESCO Aster, the first and only commercially licensed cultivated meat manufacturer, will bring Mosa Meat’s cultivated beef products and Meatable’s cultivated pork meat to market in Singapore in the next few years. These collaborations mark tangible steps towards sharing knowledge and expertise across different points in the novel foods space, on top of technological capabilities.
The next steps
Altogether, the mission to SIAW helped the delegates gain insights in the Singapore ecosystem, explore trends and opportunities and showcase Dutch technologies and knowledge. Singapore has a proactive policy to attract startups and scale-ups in alternative proteins; a key example to take home is the progressive safety assessment of novel foods by SFA. Capacity problems and long risk assessment procedures by EFSA were mentioned as critical factors that threatened the innovative position of the Netherlands as global hub for alternative proteins.
Following the setting of the 30-by-30 goal, the Singapore Government targets cooperation with a selected number of universities, companies and countries. As such, during the mission representatives of the Ministry of LNV and Top Sector explored fields of cooperation; not only in alternative proteins, but also in vertical farming and aquaculture. Talks with SFA, which falls under the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, were held on a possible MoU that has to contribute to Singapore’s food security. Dutch technologies and knowhow have the capability to support the Singapore Government in their journey to accelerate local food production.
Find a video summary of the mission in the video below. For any questions on the mission or agro-food related activities in Singapore, please reach out to our Agricultural Advisor at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.