We speak to Robin Hu, Head of Sustainability & Stewardship Group at Temasek, the summit’s key partner, for his insights into the global sustainability trends driving agri-food innovation and investment across the region.
Why is agri-food technology such an important investment theme for Temasek?
The world’s population will increase from over 7 billion people today to 10 billion in 2050. We will need 40% more food, 50% more energy and 40% more water to feed everyone. Global food security has been further threatened by COVID-19, with far-reaching implications on businesses and supply chains that highlight vulnerabilities.
Sustainability is at the core of everything that we do at Temasek. One of our key investment trends is Sustainable Living, which focuses on creating eco-conscious solutions for our future generations. We believe we can put our capital to good use by helping to fund the innovations that will help to feed more with less: that is, to make food production more efficient and sustainable, while yielding more food and making the supply chains more efficient, reducing wastage.
Looking ahead to 2021, which areas of agri-food innovation do you think will attract most investment, and why?
In order to feed more people with less resources, we all need to reimagine the food ecosystem. We see investible opportunities in innovations that will help ensure food security while adopting new technologies at scale. Some of these include:
- Urban food systems such as producing fresh produce through high-yield and high-tech farming and bringing high value fresh produce faster from the farm to the table
- Supply chain resilience through innovative logistics solutions such as autonomous vehicles and drones, cold chain management, traceability and recycling solutions, to reduce wastage
- Sustainable proteins such as plant-based burgers and cow-free dairy which produces a much lower carbon footprint
- Affordable nutrition through industrial biotech, genetics and synthetic biology, to help make food production and food science more efficient and produce healthier food for all.
How will we continue the current pace of investment and new product development with the prospect of a global economic slowdown?
It is even more pertinent that we solve this world problem by helping to feed more with less, scale solutions that are healthier for all and at the same time, reduce our carbon footprint. China’s commitment to go carbon neutral by 2060 and Europe’s Green Deal are significant policy enablers that we see as opportunities to help businesses, investors, startups, R&Ds speed up their pace of innovation and commercialisation.
As a long term investor that is focused on driving sustainable outcomes, Temasek is active in the agri-food space and constantly seeking investible opportunities; from the upstream production and ingredients process across to the downstream consumption space. We cannot do this alone and have collaborated closely with our portfolio partners, regulators, the startup ecosystem, universities and research institutions, to build up shared expertise and grow the ecosystem.
What are you looking to learn from this year’s Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Summit?
Asia needs to build our food resilience against the ongoing challenges of climate change and COVID-19. I am keen to learn how some of the food innovations coming from Asia are helping to solve these problems. It will also be interesting to see the new Asia Consumer Trends Report to be released by PWC and Temasek at the summit, and how all of us can leverage on its insights for our investments, R&D, production, policy-making or even eating habits.
Robin Hu will deliver welcome remarks at the opening of the Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Summit on November 18. See the full agenda here.