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Singapore Pride: These Homegrown Companies Are Changing the Way We Eat

8 August 2019 by Food & Hotel Asia

he iconic Marina Bay Sands flanked by a grove of super trees in their LED-glory; colourful shop houses in Little India; noisy hawker centres filled with the aromas of different foods – Singapore looks, smells and tastes different, depending on who you ask and when you ask. Here in the little city-state, where change is the only constant, is barely recognisable since gaining her independence in 1965.

This year, as she turns 54, she proves that age is just a number when it comes to growth. Earlier this year, the Singapore Food Agency (SEA) announced the 30-by-30 plan: producing 30 per cent of the country’s nutritional needs by 2030. Considering that the country imports over 90 per cent of its food supply, this will be no easy feat. Land scarcity and a lack of natural resources means that technology will play a crucial role in achieving this goal, and these two Singaporean companies are embracing tech to change the way we consume our food in the future.

When farming goes high tech

What to do when there’s not enough land? Drawing inspiration from Singapore’s architecture – we build upwards! Started in 2014, VertiVegies is an indoor vertical farm that utilises the power of tech to grow traceable, wholesome and safe food that are free from pesticides and pollution. Smart technology allows them to constantly study, analyse and react to the data collected, ensuring that the crops they produce are packed with flavour and nutrition. Their grow systems also actively regulate temperature, humidity, hydro-nutrition and other parameters, making it the most efficient system for growing perishable crops.

This ability to have full control over their environment also allows VertiVegies to farm all year round, completely independent of external environments. In a time where the industry faces unprecedented risks from climate change and the associated erratic weather patterns, the future of farming will clearly require deep roots in tech to meet demands.

In space-starved urban cities, technology like theirs is gold when it comes to meeting the demands of the health-conscious consumer who is also paying more attention to sustainability.

“Our processes have evolved over the years to embody sustainability in every aspect of our grow processes, and we strive to create products that respect our planet and people. Our intensive and productive vertical farming systems optimise land use and relieve infrastructural burdens on cities. During our grow process, we face no crop loss due to environmental control, and thereby minimise food wastage. Our closed loop hydro-nutrition systems ensure that no water is wasted during the plant growth process, and finally, our pesticide-free production ensures that we avoid soil degradation and water run-offs. We are also now employing renewable energy to power our systems and this will be implemented in our large-scale farm coming up in Kranji in 2020,” says Mark Wee, Marketing Manager of VertiVegies in an email interview.

Their two farms are already supplying customers in Singapore, and with plans of building a 5-acre indoor plant factory, they will soon be able to supply over six tonnes of greens daily. Now that’s something to chew on.  

Growing… meat?

Technology sure has come a long way since we first cloned Dolly in 1999 – today, we’ve managed to grow shrimp (yes, you read that right) in a lab right here in Singapore that is indistinguishable from the real thing in a siew mai taste test.

Shiok Meats is the brainchild of stem cell biologists Dr Sandhya Sriram and Dr Ling Ka Yi, and was borne from a desire to save the ocean and ease the population’s demand for seafood.

“We live in Asia-Pacific where 60 per cent of the world’s population lives and it is ever-growing. Seafood is a great source of protein and nutrition in this part of the world, but seafood is limited in the oceans and seafood farming has been tainted with bad practices and diseases for many years. Hence, we at Shiok Meats wanted to disrupt the seafood market by coming up with an innovative technology that is animal-, health- and environment-friendly and provides consumers with clean, tasty and nutritious seafood,” says Dr Sriram in an email interview. 

In a time where traceability and sustainability has taken centre stage, cultured meats have massive potential to fulfil both the ethical and health demands of consumers. For starters, clean meat is cruelty free as there has been no animal sacrifice. It is also health-friendly, as no harmful chemicals or antibiotics are used, and in the case of Shiok Meats, devoid of heavy metals and pathogens typical with farmed seafood. Finally, it is also sustainable as the process uses significantly less resources such as energy, water and land.

The country’s first cell-based meat venture has grand plans to make seafood grown from stem cells commonplace, and eventually hopes to be in supermarkets, hawker centres and restaurants. Dr Sriram anticipates going to mass market in 2021, and is looking to expand Shiok Meats to include lobster and crab too.

Singapore might be just a little speck on globe, but the technology and concepts that are coming forth for a cleaner and more sustainable future might very well just change the world.

Come see more impressive homegrown and international concepts and products at FHA-Food & Beverage from 31 March – 3 April 2020 at the Singapore Expo. Follow FHA official socials for latest exhibition updates!