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Grant Calls for R&D in Sustainable Food Production in Singapore

Singapore Grant Calls in Sustainable Food Production

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not the only pool of technology which Singapore is interested in. Being a country with no natural resources, Singapore strives hard to be self-sufficient and provide for its citizens.

As such, producing sustainable foods in the Agri-Tech space is one field of innovation that the nation is looking into.

The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) have each launched grant calls: ‘Sustainable Urban Food Production’ and ‘Future Foods: Alternative Proteins’.

These two grants are aimed at encouraging and funding research and development efforts in this area.

The research projects should address the following concerns:

  1. Challenges facing the tropical aquaculture and urban agriculture industries
  2. Global and local limitations for producing dietary protein

The ‘Sustainable Urban Food Production’ grant is a part of SFA’s efforts of bringing the research community and industry together to push for innovative work in the development of technological solutions for tropical aquaculture and urban agriculture.

Some of the research efforts are targeted at genetic improvement of key tropical aquaculture species and species of vegetables with traits for indoor farming and developing solutions for better disease and health management.

As part of being awarded the grants, the research proposals should include effective solutions that are able to boost the output of produce by local food producers, while ensuring that there is cost-effectiveness, resource use efficiency, sustainability and climate resilience.

Ms Melin Lim, Senior Director for SFA’s Research Planning & Systems Integration and Urban Farming Solutions divisions said that R&D efforts for ensuring sustainable urban food production are imperative with food security becoming a growing challenge.

Climate change, the increasing complexity of food systems and Singapore’s resource constraints are some of the causes attributed to the gradual rise of food scarcity.

She stressed that investing in technologies will be highly useful to Singapore achieving its “30 by 30” goal, which is to produce 30 percent of Singapore’s nutritional needs locally by 2030.

“We urge researchers and the agri-food industry to work hand-in-hand to co-develop innovative solutions that can plug technological gaps in the agri-food sector,” she said.

A*STAR has also been exploring and innovating to contribute to enhancing the capabilities in Singapore’s research ecosystem to meet the industry’s needs. It had launched the ‘Future Foods: Alternative Protein’ grant.

The global protein industry faces increasing restrictions on land use and environmentally sustainability and hence looking for other methods to produce protein-rich foods.

Soy, pulses, cereal and tubers are some of the high-protein plant foods that could possibly meet the nutrition requirements within Asia.

These plant food varieties produce a lower carbon footprint than that if livestock or conventional animal protein production.

This is a big cause for food-tech start-ups and manufacturing methods to focus more on alternatives to animal-based proteins. These alternative foods are rapidly growing within food and agritech industries.

Other less popular alternative foods that are being produced are algae and insects. With these many options, Singapore’s food scene will grow to be more diverse, in terms of its sources of protein.

With this in mind, the research proposals should also address areas such as the creation of protein-rich foods and ingredients using sources including but not limited to plants, vegetables, microbes, animal cell culture, insects, and commercial side streams.

Grant applicants are encouraged to take into consideration factors such as food safety, nutrition, palatability, scalability, sustainability, cost-effectiveness, and other real-world implications.

The grant calls will be provided as a Seed Grant where researches who have shown originality in their R&D efforts to provide solutions for the challenges in producing alternative proteins.

The seed funding is aimed at encouraging researchers to display evidence-based proof-of-concept technologies and solutions that will be regionally and globally sought after for its commercial worth, in the near future.

Prof Ralph Graichen, Senior Director of the Food and Consumer Cluster at A*STAR said that it is imperative for Singapore to uptake a leadership role in nutrition R&D with its regional partners so that the increasing dietary needs of the Asian population are met.

“This will present plenty of economic opportunities for Singapore while ensuring good social outcomes,” he said.

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