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Accelerating Cultivated Fish Technology for Mass Market in Singapore

As an innovative city, Singapore hosts an ecosystem of companies and organisations which are experimenting with new ways to solve challenging problems. Innovative products such as alternative proteins can potentially meet food challenges as these can be produced with relatively small amounts of land, labour, and in a climate-resilient and sustainable manner.

Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR’s) Bioprocessing Technology Institute (BTI) and a cultivated meat company have collaborated to jointly advance the scale-up of the company’s proprietary process to enable cost-effective, food-grade production of cultivated fish in Singapore and beyond.

The parties will establish a Joint Research Laboratory for Cultivated Fish Bioprocessing in Biopolis, Singapore where both parties will jointly develop and optimise solutions for scalable production of cultivated fish cells. These include the identification of key factors affecting the growth of cultivated fish cells, and the process design to improve scale-up and production economics.

The joint facility will tap on BTI’s deep expertise in bioprocess research and development, including animal cell bioprocessing and multi-omics analytical sciences and technologies. The company is the first one in Asia to develop technologies for fish cell cultivation and has showcased multiple commercial products, including fish fillet and marine peptide.

Singapore is the first nation in the world to approve the sale of cultivated meat. Cultivated meat has gained worldwide interest as an emerging alternative food source that is potentially more sustainable in comparison to traditional livestock farming and constitutes part of the wider field of cellular agriculture and aquaculture.

Cultivated seafood and meat is an excellent example of how the biomanufacturing sector can pivot to meet emerging needs. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of staying adaptable and innovative.

– Dr Koh Boon Tong, Executive Director, Bioprocessing Technology Institute, A*STAR

Leveraging on its existing technology in bioproduction and stem cell bioengineering, BTI has started trials on culturing meat, which will be grown on a large scale in bioreactors. The cells will make up at most half of the meat with the rest made up of bulking agents such as starch and other ingredients to improve taste and texture.

Scientists are breeding tough, fast-growing superfish that have extra amounts of healthy fat in an effort to produce more high-quality protein. The “premium tilapia” is also disease-resistant and rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

BTI is positioned as Singapore’s pillar of research and development for the biomanufacturing sector. Through strategic partnerships and application-driven research, BTI seeks to create value and impact in product markets including biologics, cell and gene therapy, exosomes, vaccines, engineered tissues, process analytical technologies and cell culture systems.

Singapore has been utilising technology in the food industry. As reported by OpenGov Asia, a Singaporean Institute announced new measures that will bolster its offerings for professionals and companies looking to level up and create a bigger impact in the food technology sector. The initiatives will help equip the local workforce and companies with added capabilities to leverage the global momentum in sustainable food production and develop new innovative food products to meet evolving consumer demand.

The initiatives include a new small-batch food production facility that will enable local food players to trial new products on a smaller and more cost-effective scale and the introduction of a new Continuing Education Training (CET) course in High Moisture Extrusion Technology (HMET).

With the increased availability and consumption of novel plant-based foods gaining ground in recent years, this course will benefit local companies that want to learn more about this unique food production process and include it as part of their manufacturing repertoire. Aligned with Singapore’s renewed focus on seizing growth opportunities in sustainability, the institute aims to provide a boost for the food technology sector in Singapore.

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