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US startup opens food tech lab in Singapore to develop animal-free milk proteins

SINGAPORE — Weeks after Singapore became the first country to allow laboratory-grown meat on menus, the authorities are teaming up with United States-based food tech startup Perfect Day to open a research centre to develop animal-free milk protein.

US startup opens food tech lab in Singapore to develop animal-free milk proteins

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said such R&D efforts are key to helping Singapore meet its future food supply needs, given that it lacks large tracts of land.

  • The milk proteins can be used to make dairy products such as cheese, ice cream and yogurt
  • The lab will focus on research and not manufacturing the food products
  • Alternative proteins help diversify local food sources, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing

 

SINGAPORE — Weeks after Singapore became the first country to allow laboratory-grown meat on menus, the authorities are teaming up with United States-based food tech startup Perfect Day to open a research centre to develop animal-free milk protein.

Instead of relying on cows, the startup uses microflora — which refers to microorganisms — to make the proteins. The microflora is given a genetic blueprint, which allows it to produce real milk proteins, like what cows produce.

These proteins could then be used to make foods such as ice cream, cheese and yogurt, with the same taste and texture as traditional dairy products, and with a higher nutritional value.

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) will be teaming up with the startup to launch the research and development (R&D) centre, which will be operational in April next year.

The centre will focus only on research and not the mass production of the products, but a Perfect Day spokesman said the firm is looking to commercialise its products internationally next year, with local market analyses and tests in different parts of the world.

An agreement signed between A*Star and Perfect Day on Monday (Dec 21) was witnessed by Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, who said during a virtual press conference that this agreement is part of Singapore’s overall food diversification strategy.

Mr Chan added that Perfect Day will hire and train a pool of researchers, scientists and engineers here.

Out of the firm's total headcount of 200 people, about 20 will be based in the new R&D centre, a company spokesman said.

The firm looks to increase this figure in the future, its co-founder Perumal Ghandi said.

Asked why Perfect Day chose Singapore to set up its R&D centre, Mr Ghandi cited the quality of talent and intellectual property security here.

Earlier this month, Eat Just, a San Franciscan startup, began selling lab-grown chicken meat here, after it was given approval from the Singapore Food Agency.

Apart from Eat Just and Perfect Day, several food tech companies have set up facilities in Singapore:

  • &ever, a German vertical indoor farming company, is setting up its global R&D centre here, which will be co-located in the firms mega-farm in Changi

  • Multinational plant equipment manufacturer Buhler has partnered flavours and fragrances company Givaudan to set up a dedicated plant-based food innovation centre in Singapore

Mr Chan said such R&D efforts are key to helping Singapore meet its future food supply needs, given that it lacks large tracts of land.

“These alternative proteins and plant-based proteins add to the suite of options that we have in order to meet our food supply needs without being constrained by previous factors of productions, like the size of the land and other natural resources required to support that kind of food production,” he said.

Mr Chan added that the agri-tech sector is not limited to the domestic market, though the authorities have a plan to have 30 per cent of the nation’s nutritional needs produced locally by 2030.

“The larger market for this sector is really the growing needs of the Asia Pacific market that we hope to capture,” he said, adding that wealthier consumers in the region will place more focus on the quality, safety and sustainability of their food.

“These are all very critical questions that, Covid or no Covid, we will have to address in the coming years,” he said.

Related topics

lab grown meat protein food dairy products

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