We asked KC Yeoh, Senior Managing Director, Enterprise Development Group at Temasek to give us his inside track on what’s happening to deliver a more self-sufficient food system for Singapore, what urgent innovation and new technology development is still needed, and what opportunities that presents for agri-food start-ups, corporates and the wider investment community.
What do you see as the most important building blocks for Singapore’s agri-food ecosystem?
The Singapore Government has committed to a 30×30 vision; to produce 30% of its nutritional needs by 2030. Challenged by food security, a land scarce Singapore needs to adopt new solutions to raise productivity, apply R&D, and strengthen climate resilience to overcome its resource constraints. To build up Singapore’s ecosystem, we need a vibrant startup network, a thoughtful and forward looking regulatory environment that allows regulations to move with innovations, corporate incubation, talents, R&D capabilities and access to funding. We will need all of these ingredients to come together to help build a successful agri-food ecosystem.
What opportunities and challenges does Singapore present to start-ups looking to develop agri-food solutions for the APAC market?
While the Singapore market is small, it can serve as a food-tech innovation hub that allows rapid pilot testing to take place. Singapore has a diverse and culturally rich population with varying taste buds. This allows us to testbed food innovations in Singapore that is highly relevant for the rest of Asia and beyond. Coupled with a stable and forward looking governance framework, including a regulatory authority that is open to working with innovators, a vibrant R&D scene and access to global talent and funding, Singapore provides many opportunities for startups looking to develop solutions to solve our global food challenge.
How can investors such as Temasek work with start-ups and other businesses to accelerate the route to market of new products?
We see ourselves as a convenor and catalyst within the ecosystem. To help connect like-minded partners, research professionals, startups, regulators and to help provide market access through the networks that we have in Asia. For example, we have worked with Impossible Foods since their early days to enter the Hong Kong and Singapore markets to testbed their products for the Asian consumer. We see more of such opportunities as we continue to incubate more homegrown or international startups, as we connect them with our networks in Asia and beyond.
What have been the key agri-food investments for Temasek in 2020, and what do you expect to see in 2021?
In the food and agri tech space, we have partnered with Bayer to start Unfold, a company that provides innovative seed technology for urban farming. We have also invested in InnovaFeed, a biotech company that has developed a new source of protein from insects for animal feed.
To enable food resilience, we have invested in sustainable protein companies such as Califia Farms that produces a dairy alternative; Memphis Meats that produces cultured meat; Growthwell and V2FOOD that also produce meat alternatives for environmental sustainability.
To catalyse innovation and commercialisation of upstream intellectual property, we have invested in two VC accelerators, Trendlines Agrifood Fund and New Protein Fund by Big Idea Ventures. Both have set up operations in Singapore and on-boarded more than 20 start-ups so far. Most recently, we have invested in Bits x Bites, a Singapore registered Chinese agri-food tech fund.
We also recognise the importance of upstream productivity and efficiency in the food chain, and are investing into Rivulis, a company that focuses on water-efficiency in the irrigation space, helping farmers manage this finite resource more effectively.
With over US$5 billion invested in the agri space over the last five years, we continue to actively seek investible opportunities across the whole spectrum of the food chain, from sustainable upstream production capabilities to downstream consumption and food trends that will provide healthier food for all.
KC Yeoh will speak on the Day 1 Closing Panel on Wednesday November 18, joining a panel to discuss: ‘Collaboration and Partnership: New Models to Accelerate Innovation’. See full programme here.