Asia-Pacific Biotech News

Building a Resilient Food Future at InnovFest 2023

How do we move towards a more sustainable and secure food system?

In resource-scarce Singapore and a post-pandemic world, ensuring food security has never been more important. Defined at the 1996 World Food Summit, food security is described as the state of having physical and economic access to enough food that is both safe and nutritious for an active and healthy lifestyle.

To achieve a more resilient food future, Singapore kickstarted the Singapore Green Plan 2030, which is a national movement towards advancing Singapore’s agenda on sustainable development. As part of the Green Plan, Singapore aims to sustainably produce 30% of the nation’s nutritional needs within the next decade. The path to achieving this goal raises several important questions: What are the current challenges that needs to be addressed? What opportunities can be seized to secure our food supply? What strategies can we employ to realise this? And most importantly, how can we effectively transition promising technologies from the confines of the laboratory to the marketplace?

These are some of the questions that were being addressed at this year’s InnovFest, the official start-up event of Asia Tech x Singapore (held from 7th to 9th June). Organised by NUS Enterprise and Informa Tech, InnovFest brought together over 100 university start-ups and entrepreneurs, connecting them with other researchers, industry players, and venture capitalists. This year, apart from looking at environmental and healthcare technologies, InnovFest also considered the latest innovation advancements within the agritech space.

In the panel discussion “Food Security: From Lab to Market”, industry experts shared their insights on the challenges and opportunities in agritech, as well as the necessary steps to achieve food security.

Undoubtedly, technological advancements have opened up immense opportunities for the agritech industry. Present at InnovFest this year, companies like Meatless Kingdom and Kosmode Health showcased their application of agricultural technology to develop products that enhance food security.

However, a big challenge stands between the development of these products in the laboratory and their successful commercialisation: scaling up. Dr. Somika Bhatnagar, Head of Plant Transformation and Tissue Culture at Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory, pointed out that while the technology and investments exist to push us further, the key lies in optimisation. For example, fine-tuning energy usage and streamlining the supply chain, among other critical factors.

Adding on, Vincent Wei, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at Archisen, underscored the importance of fostering close collaboration between institutions and companies to tackle the challenges at hand. Rather than solely focusing on research efforts, concerted action must be taken to refine and further develop existing technologies, thereby bridging the gap between innovation and market implementation.

Apart from optimising the production processes and distribution networks, another crucial aspect of ensuring food security lies in re-educating consumers and shifting the perceptions towards locally produced crops and garner their support of urban farming initiatives.

As the panel concluded, the panellists reiterated the complexity of the problem at hand, highlighting that achieving the government’s ambitious goals will require close collaboration among all stakeholders: government bodies, institutions, companies, and consumers alike. By uniting our efforts, we can effectively tackle the challenges ahead and pave the way towards a more sustainable and secure food system. [APBN]

Source: InnovFest. (2023) Food Security: From Lab to Market [Webinar]. Asia Tech x Singapore.