New industry challenge launched to support scale up of food tech start-ups

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In a collective effort to accelerate the production and commercialisation of sustainable foods in Asia, Nurasa, A*STAR’s Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation (SIFBI) and Trendlines Agrifood Innovation Centre (AFIC) have launched an Open Call for submissions to the inaugural Food Tech Start-Up Challenge.

Open to start-ups in the global agrifood technology sector, the Challenge invites pitch submissions from entrepreneurs specialising in either of two areas: the optimisation of alternative proteins for functional foods, or creation of novel product formats in the alternative protein or functional foods space.

Of particular interest to the Challenge’s stakeholders will be alternative protein start-ups with technologies that enable the production of animal-free meat and have the potential to overcome the key issues of current plant-based meat – taste, texture, nutrition and price.

Functional food products promote health benefits in addition to possessing nutritive value and includes food that has been fortified, enriched or enhanced. A sub-sector of functional foods, which will be of interest to the Challenge’s stakeholders, is the so-called “silver diet.”

The “silver diet” refers to food products that are modified in taste, texture, nutrition, and ease of preparation to better cater to the specific needs of older adults, aged 65 and older.

Submissions to the Challenge will be evaluated on a rolling basis, from 4 November 2022 to 27 January 2023.

Selected finalists will be invited to proceed to the product development phase. They will benefit from being paired with seasoned industry mentors who can offer advice and insights, as well as a series of start-up workshops organised by Nurasa and partners. These sessions will focus on four key business skillset areas: Product & Customer Development, Brand Storytelling & Marketing, Operations and Financing.

These finalists are expected to have a first prototype ready for tasting by the end of the product development phase.

The winning start-ups will be judged on the following criteria: Product Quality, Feasibility, Market Potential, Innovativeness and Capability. The final winners of the Challenge will be awarded early access to cutting-edge technologies and tools at Nurasa’s Food Tech Innovation Centre (FTIC), as well as the opportunity to work closely with industry leaders to scale up the development of their novel, animal-free food products to pre-commercialisation stage.

“At Nurasa, we are focused on accelerating the commercialisation and adoption of sustainable foods across Asia,” Nurasa Client Development Manager Jolene Lum said. “As part of that, we work closely with industry partners and promising food tech start-ups to ensure that the taste, texture, nutritional value, and price of these sustainable foods match consumer demands – simply put, we all want to eat food that excites us.

“But we recognise the pain points experienced by start-ups in scaling up and commercialising their products. With the Food Tech Start-Up Challenge, we hope to support entrepreneurs in overcoming these barriers and provide them with an effective platform to accelerate their growth and be a key contributor to Asia’s vibrant food tech landscape. We invite food tech start-ups with an exciting and viable idea to join, no matter where they are in the world!”

“To meet Singapore’s ’30 by 30’ goal, that is to sustainably produce 30% of our nutritional needs by 2030,” SIFBI’s Corporate Strategy and Business Development Director Dr Michelle Ngiam, said, “ecosystem partners need to work closely together to build our agrifood industry’s capabilities and capacities. The Food Tech Start-Up Challenge is one of the ways we are doing so. Innovative start-ups will be able to leverage state-of-the-art facilities, as well as tap into the agrifood industry insights and scientific expertise by working with the wider ecosystem. This opportunity will be completed with the aim of translating the latest food technologies into tasty and nutritious food products for consumers and position Singapore as a global agrifood innovation hub.”

“There is a need for concerted action to transition towards a sustainable food system and the best way to materialise it is through partnerships,” Mr Anton Wibowo, CEO of AFIC, concluded. “We look forward to working with emerging innovators to explore creative solutions that can lift the barriers to the adoption of alternative foods in this region.

“Trendlines has been actively involved in the development of the local agri-food ecosystem and we are excited to start a food tech-focused challenge with Nurasa and SIFBI. We believe that participating start-ups will have a lot to benefit from the mentorship and access to equipment and funding support that this challenge will provide.”