President of IUFoST, Dr Vish Prakash and his board members,
President of Singapore Institute of Food Science & Technology and Co-Chair of Organising Committee, Mr Richard Khaw,
Co Chair, Organising Committee, Dr Ong Mei Horng,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Good morning. It is my pleasure to join you today at the opening ceremony of the 21st World Congress of Food Science and Technology. To our overseas guests who comprise 65% of this hall, a very warm welcome! I wish you a very enjoyable stay in Singapore. While you are here, I really hope you will have the opportunity to explore Singapore’s rich food heritage and try some of our well-loved local dishes in our hawker centres.
2. Today’s event marks the return of the World Congress after a four-year hiatus due to the pandemic. It has been 35 years since the International Union of Food Science and Technology (IUFoST) held its 7th World Congress in Singapore. We are honoured to host this important global gathering of distinguished food scientists and technology experts. Over the next few days, we look forward to learning about the latest exciting advances in food science and technology.
Future of the Food Industry
3. The theme of today’s conference, “Future of Food: Innovation, Sustainability and Health”, is timely - for Singapore and many parts of the world.
4. Our global food supply is facing increasing pressure.
a. Growth in the global population, which has quadrupled over the last century, has driven up global demand for food.
b. At the same time, we are also facing supply-side challenges brought about by climate change, geopolitical tensions, as well as disease outbreaks and pandemics.
5. In Singapore, with over 90% of our food imported, we are acutely aware of our vulnerability to global supply chain disruptions. To strengthen our food resilience, the Singapore Government has adopted a multi-pronged strategy.
a. Firstly, we work closely with our industry partners to shore up resilience in their supply networks through import diversification. Singapore currently imports our food from over 170 countries across different regions. We will continue to accredit new source countries and suppliers to widen the options for importers.
b. Secondly, we have embarked on a “30 by 30” goal to strengthen our agri-food industry’s capability and capacity so that we can sustainably produce 30% of our nutritional needs locally by 2030.
6. This is an ambitious goal for land-scarce Singapore where about 1% of our land is for agri-food production. To achieve our “30 by 30” goal, we will need to significantly transform Singapore’s agri-food sector. I believe three key ingredients will help us in this challenging but exciting journey.
Investing in Research and Development
7. First, we need to continue to invest in the research and development of new technologies and innovative solutions that can help improve productivity and increase yield.
8. The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) is committed to supporting our companies to leverage R&D and technology in their production.
a. SFA has committed over S$60 million under the Agri-Food Cluster Transformation Fund to co-fund agri-food companies in their adoption and test-bedding of productive and sustainable farming technologies and systems.
b. In addition, close to S$30 million has been awarded to seven companies under our “30 by 30 Express” grant call to accelerate the production of key food items to meet our “30 by 30” goal.
c. Genesis One Tech Farm, also known as GoFarm, is one of the “30 by 30 Express” grant recipients. The farm leveraged technology to increase its efficiency and enhance its productivity in sustainable ways. For example, by adopting nutrient film technology and an irrigation system that re-circulates water-based nutrients, GoFarm is able to use 95% less water than conventional deep water-based hydroponic farming. This is important to us as Singapore aims to be self-sufficient when it comes to water. Today, the vertical farm can sustainably produce five to six hundred kilogrammes of fresh vegetables daily in an area smaller than 1,000 square metres.
9. Last week, Singapore announced an additional S$165 million investment in our Singapore Food Story R&D Programme 2.0 or SFS R&D 2.0. This effort builds on the 1.0 version that was launched in 2019. With this injection, our total commitment to the programme is now over S$300 million. We will see a greater emphasis placed on sustainability and we will also continue to focus on enhancing food safety.
Investing in our People
10. The second ‘ingredient’ to help us achieve our “30 by 30” goal is continued investment in our people. As a small city-state with limited resources, Singapore’s winning strategy has always been to develop our one best natural resource – our people.
11. As Singapore pursues the “30 by 30” goal, we can expect higher-value jobs to be created in the high-tech agriculture industry. For instance, it is projected that by 2030, about 4,700 new and redesigned jobs will be created in the industry. Of these, about 70% of the jobs are expected to be filled by skilled workers and PMETs. To support the industry’s growth, we need high-quality talents with relevant skills in urban food production as well as multi-disciplinary expertise in science, engineering, info-communication, and technology.
a. One of our efforts to attract and build a local talent pipeline is the Career Conversion Programme (CCP) for the Agri-food Sector, which is the first of such programmes for the sector. Jointly introduced by SFA, Workforce Singapore and Republic Polytechnic in January this year, the scheme equips mid-career individuals with transferrable skills and opportunities to embark on a new career in the Agri-tech industry.
b. We will continue to invest in our youths and nurture our next generation of food scientists. I am delighted that a series of competitions will be held during the 21st World Congress to attract and encourage innovations among the youth. For example, the Young Scientist Award will offer eight young scientists the chance to present their research to the global food science and technology community.
Investing in Collaboration
12. Third, we will foster greater collaboration here and beyond Singapore to advance our “30 by 30” goal. International cooperation with the scientific community abroad is also key to advancing research and innovation for improved global food and nutrition security and sustainable agriculture.
13. Singapore has established collaborations and partnerships with different countries, including knowledge-sharing initiatives that leverage promising innovations and technology to boost food quality and food production.
14. For example, we have been supporting the Cultiv@te Programme, a global innovation programme initiative by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Global Centre for Technology, Innovation and Sustainable Development. The programme works with innovators and multi-sector partners around the world to crowdsource solutions to address sustainability challenges in agriculture.
15. Through SFA, Singapore participated in a challenge call to manage pest and disease outbreaks in urban farms for the production of safe and sustainable food. Phytochem Consulting, a Canadian startup responded to SFA’s challenge call with their “Wely Device”, an Internet of Things (IoT) tool that can improve irrigation efficiency and disease management in farms. With SFA’s feedback, the start-up customised their product to better suit urban farms in Singapore.
16. Open innovation programmes like Cultiv@te, have helped companies and governments access a wider pool of solution providers, while allowing startups and SMEs to validate the market need for their innovations. That’s why today’s theme is so apt. We are at an inflection point where we are not just talking about food to address hunger but we need food to provide us the necessary nutrition regardless of family circumstances. In Singapore, we give the assurance that regardless of your starting point, no citizens will go hungry. Through such partnerships, Singapore hopes to identify, improve, and introduce innovative solutions to “grow more with less” and attain our “30 by 30” goal.
17. Today’s World Congress is a valuable platform for the exchange of ideas and the latest findings, and a chance to explore possible collaboration. I hope that delegates and speakers alike will take this opportunity to engage in lively discussions, explore the international buffet of research and programme, and in the process, gain fresh insights and inspiration to bring food science and technology to higher heights.
18. And now, it is with great pleasure that I declare the 21st World Congress of Food Science and Technology open.
19. Thank you.