I’m delighted to have been asked to join the Establishment Working Group of the nascent Agrifood Tech Singapore Association.
The Agritech New Zealand playbook, developed over the past 3 – 4 years, is now being leveraged by agritech ecosystems across the globe. For countries such as New Zealand and Australia where agricultural production means that a significant amount of produce is exported, tech investment is often focused on increasing production in more sustainable ways.
In Singapore, the inverse is true. Today, Singapore produces only 10% of its domestic food needs. The other 90% is imported. Last year, the Singapore government announced the 30:30 initiative; a strategy designed to increase domestic food production to 30% by 2030. Then COVID hit. When you have such a reliance on food imports, particularly when pandemics close borders, that makes you very vulnerable. This has generated a new sense of urgency across the country’s agrifood sector.
The main purpose of the Association is to accelerate Singapore’s agrifood tech ecosystem to build a coherent community to support the advance of agritech in the country. Both New Zealand and Australian agritech companies have a vital role to play.
The focus is on developing agrifood tech that maps Singapore’s specific needs. Given the lack of land, that means focusing on sectors such as vertical farming, urban farming and more intensive aquaculture farming. In a New Zealand context, I’m thinking of the likes of Biolumic, BlueLab, Autogrow, Robotics Plus. That’s just for starters. On the other side of the Tasman and wearing my Australian Agritech Association advisory hat, I can think of several Australian agritech companies that also fit the bill.
The Agrifood Tech Singapore Association envisages a tripartite approach. This involves Australia, New Zealand and Singapore working together to support Singapore’s ability to accelerate nutritious food production.
On the ground, the Singapore investment community is accelerating its focus on the need and the opportunity. On 20 November, Temasek International, the Singapore government’s main investment arm, announced that it was setting up a new vehicle to help accelerate and manage agricultural and food investments as part of a multi-billion dollar push into the market. The platform will have two main missions — to help agri-food portfolio companies build the operational capabilities needed to get products off the drawing board and into the market, and to help them build the manufacturing and production scale “to the next level.”
I have been speaking to other players in this space over the past few weeks. The need and the urgency is real. The development of the Agrifood Tech Singapore Association cannot come soon enough. It’s great to be part of the opportunity.