Singapore

New A*Star research institute to propel Singapore in food space

A new research institute will not only help Singapore grow more of its own food but also bring new dishes to tables.

The new institute could attract significant international investments into Singapore, which hopes to become a major player in the food and nutrition space.

For this, the Republic hopes to ride on its strength in technology, and the Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation is tipped to play a key role.

It will be set up by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) by the middle of next year and will look into areas such as alternative proteins and even the way food is grown, tastes or is absorbed by the body.

One of the projects it will house involves local start-up Eatobe, which is seeking to process and transform grains, nuts and seeds to make it easier for the body to digest and absorb the nutrients.

The new institute is also part of Singapore's efforts to produce 30 per cent of its nutritional needs by 2030 - or what it terms its "30 by 30" target, said Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, at the launch of the Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Week.

Singapore currently imports 90 per cent of its food, which makes it vulnerable in case climate change hits global production.

Highlighting the opportunities that technology has created for the sector, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat pointed to the potential growth of the agri-food industry in Asia, which was projected to double its spending on food over the next decade - from US$4 trillion (S$5.4 trillion) now to US$8 trillion.

"In 2018 alone, agri-food technology start-ups raised nearly US$17 billion globally, a 40 per cent increase over the previous year," said Mr Heng.

The institute will not only attract international investments but also make local companies more productive through innovation, said Dr Benjamin Seet, assistant chief executive of the Biomedical Research Council at A*Star.

Mr Heng also pointed to the global benefits of such research. Globally, around 800 million people live in hunger, and Asia alone has 300 million smallholder farms.

By improving crop yield and productivity, "we can improve the lives of these farmers and their families and bring more food to consumers", he said.

Food & Drink