In his Opening Address on Day 1 of the Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Week, taking place in Singapore November 20-22, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Dr Koh Poh Koon presented his vision and exciting developments for the region’s agri-food investment.
In agri-food innovation and technology, he believes that Singapore can become a global leader for developing and commercialising solutions that can sustainably feed the world. To enable Singapore to reach this vision, they have been busy working on several initiatives as key ingredients to kickstart Singapore’s ecosystem.
“In March this year, I shared that I am leading a multi-agency team comprising the Economic Development Board (EDB), Enterprise Singapore (ESG), A*STAR, JTC Corporation, and the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), to look at various aspects of growing the agri-food ecosystem in Singapore," said Koh Poh Koon. "Together, we are identifying ways to provide better support in industry and enterprise development, R&D, manpower, and regulations. I promised that the Government will work closely with our industry partners to navigate, and where possible, streamline the regulatory requirements to help companies adopt new technology and new business innovations that are integral to this new industry.”
In March he also announced that the creation of an Agri-Food Innovation Park (AFIP), which would grow into a dedicated nexus for innovation, to work with leading high-tech farming operators to demonstrate their technologies at scale and catalyse innovation through fostering synergies across the value chain. Singapore’s agri-food agencies are in active discussions with a variety of leading local and global companies – including those involved in insect farming and indoor vertical farming – to set up there.
Further initiatives embarked upon this year include:
- Appointment of seven co-investment partners under a programme that will catalyse more than S$90 million of investments to grow the pool of agri-food tech startups in Singapore. In addition, it has anchored global accelerators in Singapore including Big Idea Ventures, GROW, Hatch Blue, Temasek Life Accelerator, The Yield Lab, and Trendlines.
- Announcement of a S$144 million Singapore Food Story R&D Program, which will bring public research institutes and industry partners together to solve agri-food challenges in areas such as sustainable urban food production and biotech protein production.
- With its regulatory agencies, the Singapore Government has started a learning journey with its local farms. It will do more to foster innovation while ensuring safety; but as a first step, will soon be jointly releasing an industry guide for farms. The guide will provide clarity on how regulations apply at the setting up phase, and be especially helpful for farms using new technologies.
On top of these initiatives that have been announced over the past few months, the Senior Minister of State announced at the summit that A*STAR will be setting up a new research institute (RI), the Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation (SIFBI) in the first half of 2020.
Dr Koh Poh Koon said: “This new RI will bring together existing efforts and research capabilities within A*STAR under one roof, in the areas of food, nutrition, public health, biotechnology, manufacturing, and agri-food technology, as well as food safety research. These capabilities will support the development of solutions for the needs of the Asian market, such as the discovery and production of healthy and sustainable foods.
"One of the areas that the new RI will nurture is food safety research, which will be critical to the growth of the food industry. To assure consumers of the quality and high standards of Singapore products, SIFBI is developing more accurate and predictive food safety tests.
"The new RI will also facilitate greater partnerships between the public sector, institutes of higher learning (IHLs), and the industry. For instance, it will collaborate with the SFA, NUS, and NTU Singapore in research areas such as alternative proteins, food structure engineering, fermentation technology and more."
Closing, the Minister said he looks forward “to the exciting contributions that this new RI will make towards Singapore as a leading food and nutrition hub.”