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Singapore: Using an AI/ML Approach to Meat and Seafood Production

The difficulties faced by businesses in accelerating the development and production of farmed meat and seafood through public-private partnerships are addressed by a multi-institutional research programme by A*STAR and its partners through the CentRe of Innovation for Sustainable banking and Production of Cultivated Meats or CRISP Meats.

The use of animal serum in the manufacturing process and high costs of culture media are key contributors to the challenging commercial viability of bringing cultivated meat and seafood products to the general population.

–  Dr Ng Say Kong, Principal Scientist and Co-Director of CRISP Meats

Dr Ng added that projects are made to address the demands of the cultivated meat and seafood business, from the isolation and documentation of cell lines to the development of novel bioprocesses and animal serum-free growing mediums. It also addresses the high cost of animal serum and cell culture media. They use cutting-edge technology, such as multi-omics analysis to determine the metabolic needs of cells from various species to accelerate their growth rate, and artificial intelligence and machine learning modelling (AI/ML) techniques to speed up the media formulation process.

A diverse team of researchers is led by Dr Ng together with Dr Andy Tan, Senior Scientist and Co-Director of CRISP Meats in their collaborative efforts to develop various technologies that can support a profitable value chain for produced meat.

They also collaborate with cultivated meat companies to help them develop a variety of product formats, ranging from mincemeat products like nuggets and patties to whole-cut meat products like steaks and sliced meat parts.

The researchers intend to create a diverse range of cell lines to produce cultivated chicken, pork, and selected seafood, including fish, as these products are commonly used in Asian cuisines and are expected to gain popularity in Asian markets.

Sixteen (16) labs from A*STAR, the Singapore Institute of Technology, and the National University of Singapore are involved in CRISP Meats. The research teams focus on regional seafood, fish, and premium chicken breeds to identify cell lines from food species that cater to Asian palates.

Furthermore, in December 2020, the Singapore Food Agency approved the sale of the world’s first cultivated chicken nuggets, making Singapore the first country in the world to do so. The country is leading efforts to assist industry partners in making cultivated meat safe and affordable. This aligns with Singapore’s “30 by 30” food security national agenda, which aims to meet 30% of Singapore’s nutritional needs locally by 2030.

The demand for food is rising along with the middle class due to the expanding global population and rising protein intake. Alternatives to conventional protein sources, such as farmed meat and seafood, may be more durable and sustainable.

In addition, cultivated beef uses a lot less space for farming and is less prone to seasonal variation and climate change because it can be produced on demand in a lab. The commercial production of farmed meat and seafood will advance with research into reducing costs and increasing production and processing efficiency.

The Singapore Food Story Grant Call on Future Foods in 2021 funded the CRISP Meats, which was administered by A*STAR in collaboration with the Singapore Institute of Technology and the National University of Singapore to advance R&D in the cultivated meat and seafood industry. The goal is to attract companies for collaboration to develop integrated platform technologies across the value chain to support and anchor Singapore’s cultivated meat and seafood industry.

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