Food Tech Startups – An Insight
Previously, we discussed how Singapore harnessed its strength to develop the food tech industry. The government and investors created avenues for food tech to shine and succeed. Also, we focused on what the future may hold for this sector. Let us take an insight into food tech start-ups in this article.
To analyse these start-ups, we shall focus on their efforts, either by innovation through their processes or by innovation in design.
Innovating processes has plenty of benefits. In maximising productivity through new processes, the output can be substantially greater in both quality and in quantity.
In our article about food technology, we discussed two new technologies being implemented. Firstly was Vertical Farming, and secondly, Recirculating Aquaculture System.
One example we can look with regards to Vertical Farming can be the food technology start-up Sky Greens. It was established in 2012 by Jack Ng, an engineer who wants to help countries like Singapore. One of its highlights was the company being awarded the world’s first national standard for organic vegetables grown in urban environments.
It was developed in Singapore to address key challenges such as limited land, lack of soil and water, and higher operating costs from energy consumption and manpower constraints.
Source: Sky Greens
Sky Greens is succeeding well due to their methods of Vertical farming. It’s farm consists of rotating tiers of growing troughs, mounted on an aluminium frame. Rising as high as 9 meters, the troughs rotate such that the plants receive ample amounts of sunlight and nutrients.
As a result, this technique was able to save up to 95% of its water resources, 75% of input materials, and 80% of labour. To develop such an innovative system, investment, and grants, as seen in our previous article, helped to pour resources into research and development efforts.
The future is bright for Sky Greens and Vertical farming in general. They recently developed farms on the Housing Development Board (HDB) flats to encourage the community to learn more about farming. In the future, Sky Greens are looking to build an indoor prototype of its vertical farm, which can be used in households and offices.
Recirculating Aquaculture System
In 2018, Singapore fish farms produced 5915 tonnes of fish and 613 tonnes of other seafood. To increase fish production and be climate-resilient, better technologies must be implemented. This example is a farm that employs the use of Recirculating Aquaculture Systems.
On a barge off northeastern Singapore, a farm is embracing this new water technology. Owned by Singapore Aquaculture Technologies (SAT), this farm aims further.
Less than a year old, the farm expected to yield about 250 tonnes of fish a year. The farm’s system allows water conditions to be controlled and unaffected by the sea. With consistent conditions, fishes are unlikely to contract illnesses and will grow better. Artificial Intelligence is used to make precise analysis and predictions of the fish.
This farm produces sea bass, red snapper, and mussels for retailers and restaurants. They also grow fish from weighing less than a gram to up to 300 grams for other farms in Singapore.
The farm plans to adopt blockchain technology to ensure the traceability of its fish from egg to harvest. That way, consumers will be able to scan a QR code to get information about the fish they are eating.
While there are start-ups innovating processes, other start-ups innovate by design. Some of these start-ups create visionary ideas that aim to create new opportunities with limited supplies.
Founded in August last year, Singapore-based Shiok Meats is the first cell-based meat company in Southeast Asia. It is the brainchild of two stem cell biologists: Dr Sriram, 33 and Dr Ling, 31.
Source: Green Queens
The company focuses on producing alternatives to an otherwise unsustainable shrimp industry in Singapore. Its mission is to bring clean, delicious and healthy seafood and meats by harvesting from cells instead of animals.
To innovate, Dr Sriram and Dr Ling had to build everything from scratch. Obtaining original stem cells was tough as normal shrimp farms are unclean and injected with antibiotics for maximum size. Once obtained, these stem cells are placed in a nutrient mix.
The cells will then be grown into the meat. Cell-based meats have fewer toxins and are less taxing on the earth’s resources, according to Dr Sriram. Their goal is to see their shrimp sold everywhere. However, they have quite the mountain to climb.
Source: Food Navigator Asia
Stem cell solution is too costly for mass production. In a recent test, Shiok Meats developed lab-grown shrimp dumplings for a recent summit. While it was successful, creating eight dumplings cost the company about S$5,000. To reach the mass market, they plan to plan to lower the cost of production by 100 times in 5 years. Currently, they are having talks with three premium restaurants to use their shrimp by the end of 2020.
While it may take time for Shiok Meats to reach the market, we hope they are successful in their efforts. Lab-grown meat can help to reduce our increasing needs of imports and we can rely on ourselves to create our own requirements.
Through these start-ups, innovation and hard-work have become key work ethics. An idea will only blossom into reality once work is done. With the government’s resources and investment, money is first poured into research and development.
Once the plan is finalised, trial and error begins, until the perfect plan is formed. Then, the plan is worked on until costs run low and profits start to form. It is tough to form a start-up, especially in the food tech industry. However, these start-ups show that with limited resources, they can innovate for a greater future.