Food sustainability is becoming a huge topic of conversation worldwide and hungry investors are waking up to the growth possibilities as we track towards 10 billion mouths to feed by 2050. Investment research company PitchBook tracked almost US $40 Billion in venture capital flow into food tech in 2021, double the previous year’s figures. But with an estimated $1 Trillion+ required to transition the global food industry to a greener low carbon future, the sky’s the limit.
One of the most interesting categories in food tech right now is the fast emerging ingredients sector, as consumers increasingly shift away from traditional sources of protein in search of healthier options with lower environmental impact. Driven by continual innovations in plant-based food technologies, the demand for high quality source materials continues to grow rapidly. Last week’s announcement that Khosla Ventures was investing in Canterbury based Leaft Foods is testament to the scale of the opportunity. Plant-based burgers and lab grown chicken are no longer fanciful subjects of science fiction.
So our producers need to monitor and continually adapt to global developments, rather than assuming that the demand for traditional proteins will remain unchanged. Evolving consumer needs and advances in food science are both a threat and an opportunity to an agricultural nation such as New Zealand. So we dropped in on SGInnovate’s deep tech webinar series to find out how Singapore is turning to science and innovation to find solutions to food security and sustainability.
SGInnovate actively supports entrepreneurial researchers to commercialise deep tech across the science spectrum in Singapore, including facilitating connections to capital and talent. In 2020 the Singaporean government allocated a staggering S$300 million to support the project as part of an overall commitment to drive up public investment in research, science and technology to 1% of GDP. SG Innovate has built up an impressive portfolio of more than 80 deep tech ventures so far. Conversely in New Zealand the approach has been to invest as little as possible from the public purse and simply outsource deep tech incubation to foreign operators without consideration to building a wider innovation ecosystem.
However panelists at the agrifood webinar were clearly in favour of governments playing an active role in the development of the research, science and technology landscape. But they also pointed to the government role in bringing digitalisation to rural economies through better infrastructure, training farmer producers as well as addressing the regulatory environment to encourage innovation. For example Singapore was the first country to approve retail sales of cultured meat. Fittingly speaker Geraldine Goh from the recently established Foodtech Innovation Centre had the last word on futuristic foods yet to be developed by the scientist entrepreneurs of the avid food loving island nation. “It will be all about taste, texture and nutrition”.
ThincLab Canterbury is a delivery partner for the 2022 Food, Fibre and Agritech Supernode Challenge
Singapore will be hosting the Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Summit in October 2022.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons