Optimising Southeast Asia’s Agri-Food Supply Chain: Sustainable, Healthy Food for a Global Market

Major global food brands, technology innovators, regional producers and investors gather for the first Rethink Agri-Food Innovation Week in Singapore

Rethink Agri-Food Innovation Week opened in Singapore today, gathering hundreds of regional and international agri-food business leaders in Singapore as they discuss key opportunities to optimise the sustainable growth of the region’s food supply chain.

Through its three-day programme, the summit aims to accelerate technology and investment in Southeast Asia’s food supply chain and its flourishing innovation ecosystem. It will address the growing role of technology in building an efficient, resilient and sustainable agri-food supply chain that can deliver fresh, nutritious food to today’s fast-changing consumer market.

Asia is the world’s largest food market, and by 2050 its population is expected to grow by 900 million people to five billion. With a growing middle class, by 2030 the region could account for 50% of the global increase in annual beef and poultry consumption, and over 75% of the rise in fish consumption. To meet demand, major and urgent changes are needed to upgrade the region’s agri-food system, from precision farming to sustainable aquaculture and adoption of new alternatives to animal protein.

Singapore has its own food security challenges, being heavily dependent on 90% food imports for its sophisticated 5.2 million population whose fast-changing demographics are driving demand for non-traditional, new and exciting food products.

In his opening address at the summit, Kai Fong Chng, Managing Director for the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) discussed the opportunity for the region, and the commitment of the Singapore’s government to capitalise on its unique position as the gateway for global technology innovation and investments into the agri-food sector.

“Science and technology are transforming the way we grow, deliver and consume food. With our existing research and industrial capabilities, Singapore is well placed to facilitate the development of new solutions and related talent for the agri-food sector. We welcome the first Asian edition of the Rethink Conference to Singapore, and look forward to working with like-minded partners to grow Singapore into a leading hub in agri-technology,” said Mr Chng.

Delegates at Rethink Agri-Food Innovation Week include senior representatives from the world’s biggest food producers and technology giants: ADM, BASF, Bayer, Cargill, Coca-Cola, Corteva, Danone, Dole, DuPont, Ferrero, Fonterra, IBM, Microsoft, Monde Nissin, Nestle, Nutreco, Olam, Roquette, Tate & Lyle and Wilmar.

They’re seeking opportunities for partnership and collaboration with the wealth of technology start-ups bringing breakthrough technologies to improve the efficiency and sustainability of the region’s food supply chain. Also supporting them are a host of technology accelerator and investment companies including Padang & Co, SparkLabs Cultiv8, Beanstalk Agtech and Sprout X, with international accelerators The Yield Lab and Trendlines AgTech launching operations in the region.

The summit covers the full spectrum of agri-food innovation, with three themed days for:

  • Crops, Farming and Supply Chain Technology
  • Indoor Agriculture and Sustainable Aquaculture
  • Nutrition, Health, Protein and the Future of Food

Crops & Farming:
New technologies are critical to support the sustainable agricultural intensification necessary for the region to deliver the greater food volume needed. The summit will explore the potential of precision agriculture technologies such as decision-management systems, drones, satellite intelligence, robotics and AI, and how crops can be developed for greater resilience, food security and nutrition, by harnessing new technologies in gene-editing, plant science and biotech.

Supply Chain:
Better use of data will achieve greater supply chain transparency and traceability, offering businesses greater visibility and control over their supply chains and processes. Smallholder farmers can achieve better market prices, while downstream businesses can ensure compliance. The summit will discuss the potential for blockchain in agri-food, and how it can be made cost-effective for the sector, taking examples from the region and around the world.

Indoor Agriculture:
A new urban agricultural landscape is needed for land-scarce cities to feed fresh, nutritious produce to their increasingly affluent and growing populations. The summit looks at new models and systems for urban indoor and vertical farming, the advances in technologies for lighting, robotics and climate control to improve cost-efficiency, and how urban farming can be integrated into existing food distribution systems and future city planning.

Sustainable Aquaculture:
Southeast Asia has the potential to be the global hub for large-scale fish production. The summit addresses the role of digital technologies in transforming efficiency, quality and safety in aquaculture, new sustainable alternative proteins for fish feed, and the investment and collaboration needed to speed up widespread adoption across the Southeast Asian aquaculture industry.

The Future of Food:
Innovative ingredients are set to combat the rise of diabetes, obesity and age-related disorders in the region, creating foods that promote healthy ageing and reduce sugar consumption while retaining convenience, flavour, texture and affordability for the Southeast Asian consumer. As demand for milk and meat grows, the demand for new alternatives to animal protein is attracting huge investment in plant-based and clean meat alternatives to dairy, meat, fish and seafood. The summit spotlights the latest technology breakthroughs, investment needed to make these scalable and affordable, and how to overcome any barriers to consumer acceptance in the region.

Full information on the summit is available at www.agrifoodinnovation.com