Nanyang Technological University, (NTU Singapore), in partnership with Enterprise Singapore (ESG), today launched the Singapore Agri-Food Innovation Lab (SAIL) that aims to accelerate innovation and reap the growing economic opportunities in the agri-food sector.
Witnessed by Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Trade and Industry and NTU President Professor Subra Suresh, NTU and ESG inked a collaboration agreement to officially launch SAIL, which will serve as a national platform that seeds partnerships between SAIL’s corporate partners, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), startups, research institutes and institutes of higher learning (IHLs) to drive agri-food innovations.
Businesses can look forward to a range of business matching and co-innovation activities. SAIL will work with agri-food corporates to establish their problem statements, identify partnership opportunities to find solutions, and organise knowledge-sharing sessions to match demand drivers and solution providers.
As part of the collaboration with NTU, ESG will leverage its extensive business network to connect SAIL with agri-commodity corporates as well as local agri-tech and food-tech SMEs and startups. The first batch of Agri-food corporates that will be collaborating with SAIL include Agrex Asia, Apeiron AgroCommodities, Apical Group, Bountifood, Bunge, Cargill, Co-Laboratory, Cocoa Association of Asia, Dole International, First Resources, Float Foods, Golden Agri-Resources, IFFCO, International Rubber Study Group, Intersnack, Louis Dreyfus Company, N & E Innovations, Singapore Coffee Association, Shiok Meats, Sophie’s Bionutrients, Sumifru, and The Good Food Institute APAC.
SAIL’s objectives are aligned with NTU’s recently launched Sustainability Manifesto, which aims to propel the University’s wide-ranging efforts in sustainability over the next 15 years and solidify its position as a leader in sustainability, which includes forging close ties with industry partners that are committed to joining NTU’s sustainability journey.
NTU Senior Vice President (Research) Professor Lam Khin Yong said: “The partnership between NTU and Enterprise Singapore to establish the Singapore Agri-Food Innovation Lab (SAIL) will help boost Singapore’s value proposition as a trading and innovation hub, by offering agri-food corporates, especially SMEs and startups, a conducive environment to pursue innovation within the industry. Featuring a highly interdisciplinary expert panel comprising of NTU faculty from engineering, business and the social sciences, SAIL serves as a new collaborative platform to fill the gaps in commercialisation to grow a vibrant innovation ecosystem. NTU’s innovation in the agri-food tech space positions the University as one of the solution providers for the successful development of SAIL, based on its demonstrated research capabilities and industry partnership, an example being the hydrogel bandages made with durian husks.”
Mr Lee Pak Sing, Assistant Chief Executive Officer of Enterprise Singapore, said: “As an international trading hub for agri-commodities players and with a growing agri-food tech sector, Singapore is well-placed to support the growing demand for agri-food innovation. SAIL will add to Singapore’s capacity for innovation in this emerging area. Companies can partner with SAIL to anchor their innovation and sustainability activities in Singapore. It will also be a platform for local SMEs and startups to explore opportunities to testbed and scale their innovative solutions beyond Singapore.”
An interdisciplinary collaborative platform
Situated on the NTU campus, SAIL’s research and development capabilities will be backed by expertise from NTU’s Food Science and Technology (FST) programme and the Nanyang Business School, along with an interdisciplinary team of NTU professors with specialised knowledge in the areas of food-tech, agri-tech, microbiology, chemistry, nanomaterials, fintech, green finance, supply chain and logistics, consumer trends, and business analytics.
Adding to this, SAIL would also promote entrepreneurship in the agri-food ecosystem by working with accelerator programmes, as well as facilitating dialogue between the industry, IHLs, and startups. This includes the organisation of outreach events to showcase thought leadership from the industry and IHLs.
NTU will be the main operator of SAIL, with NTU Professor William Chen as the Director of SAIL, while NTU Professor Boh Wai Fong will be its Co-Director. Prof Chen is Director of NTU’s Food Science and Technology (FST) programme, while Prof Boh is Deputy Dean of the Nanyang Business School at NTU.
SAIL will serve as a neutral vehicle to advocate for industry-wide projects and facilitate co-innovation with key players in the agri-food innovation ecosystem. It will leverage NTU and ESG’s track record of working with partners such as A*STAR, Singapore Food Agency, National University of Singapore, as well as global partners such as The Good Food Institute, Trendlines, Big Idea Ventures, and Food Industry Asia.
Based on the problem statements of potential corporate partners, SAIL will focus on sustainability, automation, and digitalisation for the agri-tech sector, developing new and improved agricultural inputs, as well as downstream research and development.
Refer to the Annex for more details on the areas of innovation supported under SAIL.
For a start, the Singapore Agri-Food Innovation Lab (SAIL) will focus on problem statements relating to the following four areas, which are more prevalent in the agri-food sector:
- Sustainability – Develop supply chain traceability solutions to support business sustainability, enhance food safety, reduction of carbon emission and upcycling of food waste.
- Automation/digitalisation – Use of technology for precision agriculture to optimise business practices, resource efficiency and drive profitability.
- New/improved agricultural inputs – Develop new or enhanced existing inputs to improve crop yield, food quality, resilience to climate conditions and pest management. Examples of inputs include seeds, bio-stimulants, organic fertilisers, organic pesticides.
- Downstream R&D – Use of R&D to develop innovative food products to address food security issues and to meet consumers’ changing needs (e.g. plant-based/alternative proteins).