With just days until the start of Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Week, Anuj Maheshwari,  Managing Director of Agribusiness at Temasek sets the scene for critical discussions, technology innovation and partnerships at the summit to secure the sustainable future of food in Asia.

Why Asia? Why now?
Asia is a decisive component in the global food chain, accounting for about 20% of exports and 30% of imports in the global total food and agricultural trade, and it is growing rapidly. However, the region faces a challenge in feeding the future while being at the forefront of several converging trends.

A bulk of the world’s population growth will come from Asia, with about 700 million more mouths to feed by 2050.

Asia is also growing richer quickly. By 2030, the region is expected to make up two-thirds of the world’s middle-income population. The increasingly affluent Asian consumer will demand healthier, more nutritious and more sustainable food.

Asia will also be a home to mega cities and more than 50% of the population will live in these cities. Agricultural systems would need to be tailored to an urban consumer.

At the same time, Asia is on the climate front line – many of Asia’s countries are amongst the most vulnerable to rising sea levels. Crop yields are also being threatened by lack of water and soil degradation.

Traditional farming practices alone are not enough to solve the food challenge in Asia. Innovative and sustainable solutions and technologies are needed, and these require investment and collaboration across the agri-food industry.

Urgent, collective action is needed today to ensure sustainable food security for Asia’s current and future generations.

What are the unique challenges faced by the region’s agri-food system? What’s ripe for disruption?
The agri-food industry in Asia is highly complex and fragmented – from dietary preferences to regulatory systems. This poses a challenge to scaling new solutions across the region.

However, the growing demands of Asian consumers present a huge opportunity for companies.

One trend is the protein gap – the demand for protein is outpacing supply, much like elsewhere in the world, as populations grow bigger and richer. However, while the West has come up with new sustainable alternative proteins to feed beef-loving customers, Asian consumers demand different protein types for their unique food palates – for example, in China, pork is in demand; in Indonesia, it is chicken; and in India, it is lentils. This presents a huge opportunity for diversified alternative proteins.

Asia’s agri-food industry also lags behind the rest of the world in innovation, with a lack of investment and visibility in the supply chain hindering its progress. More needs to be done to increase sustainability, safety and efficiency and technology will be a key enabler.

For example, modern urban farms with vertical or advanced aquaculture systems will become more viable in an urbanising Asia which sees lesser arable land. Such urban farms shorten the supply chain to provide fresher produce to customers with less transport emissions. In addition, as technologies improve and scale, they’ll see greater efficiencies and lower costs.

At Temasek, as an active investor, we see a big opportunity for agri-food solutions in Asia. We stand ready to invest in innovative agri-food solutions that build a better, smarter and more sustainable world.

What then does the future of food in Asia need?
Collective effort is needed from all involved in the agri-food value chain. Farmers and agribusinesses must adopt new innovations and technologies; investors need to provide patient and long-term support to scale these solutions; consumers have to change their mindsets and shift towards more sustainable food sources; and the government plays an important role in creating the right environment and regulatory systems for these changes.

Singapore is an apt place to start as a potential future agri-food hub in Asia. Here, agri-food innovation is backed by strong government support which provides a regulatory sandbox and investments needed for R&D. Advanced biotech capabilities, wide access to markets in Asia, and a network of corporates, investors and accelerators are also coming together to position Singapore as a hub to nurture sustainable agri-tech solutions for the region.

That is why Temasek has partnered with Rethink Events to bring together key global stakeholders – from business leaders to leading researchers, government agencies to private equity funds, established agribusinesses to start-ups – at the 2019 Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Week in Singapore. We hope that this week will spark thought, action and collaboration to meet the Asia food challenge and protect our future.

Temasek is headline partner for the Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Week in Singapore on November 20-22. 
Learn more about Temasek’s vision and activities: 

Wednesday November 20: 8.50am Introduction: Investing for a Better, Smarter and More Sustainable World
John Vaske, Head of Agribusiness and Head of Americas, TEMASEK, USA

Thursday November 21 1.15 Lunch Briefing: The Asia Food Challenge
Key insights into the major report launching November 20, by PWC, RABOBANK and TEMASEK.

Thursday November 21 5.15 Building Singapore as a Global Agri-Food Innovation Hub
Yeoh Keat Chuan, Managing Director, Enterprise Development Group, TEMASEK, SINGAPORE

Friday November 22 9.15 Opening Plenary Discussion: Building Sustainable and Healthy Food Brands in a Changing Consumer Landscape in Asia
Fazeela Rashid, Managing Director, Investments, TEMASEK, USA