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Speech by MOS Alvin Tan at Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Summit 2020

Speech by MOS Alvin Tan at Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Summit 2020

1. Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening to everyone from around the world. Thank you for inviting me to the APAC Agri-Food Innovation Summit 2020, which is in its third year running - and online for the first time.  

a. Even though we cannot meet face-to-face this year due to COVID-19, I am glad that we can continue to connect virtually, exchange ideas and explore new opportunities in and for the agri-food industry. 

Opportunities to address global food challenges 

2. As we know, meeting the global demand for food is challenging. On the one hand, global demand for food will continue to grow. 

a. As the world population is expected to grow from 8 billion today to 10 billion by 2050, the demand for food will only increase. 
b. Consumer preferences have also changed. Asia’s growing middle class and its rising ability to spend will drive consumption and demand for high-value animal protein. As consumers look for more nutritious and tastier food options, diets will change from carbohydrate-reliant to protein-heavy. That’s the demand side. 

3. On the supply-side,

a. Climate change and erratic weather patterns will impact farming and crop yield across the world. 
b. Unsustainable agricultural and industrial practices have also led to loss of arable land. 
c. COVID-19 has also highlighted supply chain vulnerabilities, and prompted the need for diversification, including sourcing practices and rebalance towards local sources.   
4. However, these challenges also present opportunities for the agri-food industry. A key enabler is technology and innovation, which is transforming the way food is grown and produced, especially for a country like Singapore that faces many natural constraints. 

a. For instance, the emergence of ‘smart farming’ and data analytics has enabled precision agriculture, enabling farmers to optimise production by  precisely controlling and monitoring the growing conditions. 
b. Indoor growing technologies, such as hydroponic and vertical farming, also present new opportunities for countries regardless of their size.

Leading hub for agri-food tech and innovation

5. In this context, Singapore seeks to be a leading hub for agri-food tech and innovation. 

a. Today, Singapore produces less than 10 percent of our nutritional needs. We have set a “30 by 30” goal to develop the capacity and capability to meet 30 percent of our nutritional needs by 2030.
b. Last week, I hosted a virtual dialogue with a group of agri-food industry leaders who are also attending this Summit. The leaders shared that Singapore has the right conditions to support their business operations and expansion plans.  
c. Even then, we will constantly improve our offerings to Singaporeans and the rest of the world. Summits such as this one, allow us to learn from one another. Working with our industry partners, the next bound of our agri-food strategy can be characterised by - Advance, Accelerate, and Access. 

Advance through R&D and Innovation

6. First ‘A’ is advance. We will support businesses to advance their products and capabilities through research and innovation, with the availability of infrastructure and talent. 

a. Last year, we announced that we will be setting up the Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation (or SIFBI) at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (or A*STAR). By driving innovation in novel foods and ingredients, we aim to boost local produce capabilities, and satisfy global demand for safer, healthier and more sustainable food.
b. For instance, Singapore-based enterprise Sophie’s Bionutrients has been tapping SIFBI’s know-how in fermentation and bioprocess engineering and design, to develop a sustainable alternative protein with microalgae. This could one day be a part of our everyday diet. 

c. Another example is the German company &ever, which is setting up a fully automated indoor farm here that will produce 500 tons of fresh produce every year. &ever will also set up its Global R&D Centre here and work with A*STAR and local academic institutes to explore research collaborations to level up capabilities in the sector. 

7. We are also excited to see new partnerships forming within the industry to seed and develop infrastructure and talent. 

a. For instance, Bühler and Givaudan will set up a joint innovation centre here early next year. It will support the growing ecosystem of startups, corporates and researchers, on plant-based product development for Asia. 
b. We look forward to seeing more partnerships and collaborations which will enhance the eco-system. 

Accelerate under pro-business macro conditions

8. The second ‘A’ is ‘Accelerate’. Agri-food is a nascent industry, with many new and exciting innovations and products. Companies need the right environment to start, pilot new innovations and explore new areas of collaboration with one another. We can help to accelerate the process. 

9. To help aspiring farmers in Singapore to get started, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) and Enterprise Singapore (ESG) have launched a 1-0-1 guide to help them navigate guidelines, procedures, and regulatory approvals needed to start a land-based farm in Singapore. This will make it easier for those new to the industry to kick-start their businesses. 

10. For those who are exploring new concepts and innovations, we want to help them accelerate test-bedding and product development.

a. This is why we are setting up the Agri-Food Innovation Park (AFIP), which seeks to attract best-in-class agri-food tech companies as a pilot cluster to develop new agri-food technologies in Singapore. 
b. The co-location of high-tech farming operations and R&D investments for test-bedding and collaborative research, will catalyse co-innovation and test-bedding of new products and processes. 
c. The AFIP is expected to be ready by the second quarter of next year. 

11. For those which have made good progress, we hope to accelerate their product-to-market-and-to-revenue process. 

a. For example, A*STAR and Temasek have signed an Memorandum of Understanding to establish a Food Tech Innovation Centre in Singapore to accelerate the commercialisation of food technologies. Temasek will share more on this during the summit. 

Access to the world 

12. The third ‘A’ is “Access”. The ability to develop and commercialise new products must be complemented with a safe, trusted and well-connected environment, with free access to regional and global markets. COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of supply chain resilience. 

a. Singapore plays a critical role in global supply chains - managing, producing and moving goods around the world. This includes supply chain activities for regional and global food businesses.
b. Even at the height of the pandemic, Singapore remained open and connected to allow essential supply chains to continue, so that the rest of the world has continued access to food and essential supplies. 

13. Economic Development Board (EDB) has shared that there is sustained interest from companies from around the world that are anchoring new agri-food capabilities here. 

a. For instance, US-based company, Eat JUST Inc., widely known for its plant-based eggs, just announced its collaboration with Proterra Investment Partners to set up its first-in-Asia and largest protein isolates manufacturing plant in Singapore. 

14. I would like to thank businesses for their support and confidence in Singapore, especially during this crisis. These investments will affirm our vision and commitment for Singapore to be a leading hub for agri-food tech and innovation. 

Closing 

15. We will help businesses advance and accelerate, with access to the regional and global market. At the same time, there is much we can learn from one another. We must continue to collaborate to unlock the agri-food industry’s full potential – and in doing so, create exciting opportunities for our businesses and help in the global effort to strengthen food resilience. 

16. I look forward to our continued collaborations ahead, and wish everyone a fruitful and successful Agri-Food Innovation Summit. Thank you. 


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