DPM Heng Swee Keat at the Launch of FoodPlant

DPM Heng Swee Keat | 22 April 2022

Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the Launch of FoodPlant on 22 April 2022.

Ladies and Gentlemen, 
A very good morning to everyone.  
I am happy to be here with you today to officially launch FoodPlant.   


The food sector is not only close to Singaporeans’ hearts, but also one that brings exciting opportunities for our economy, and for our people. We are in a region where the population continues to grow rapidly, together with a burgeoning middle class. With rising incomes, the market for food products will continue to expand. In Asia, food expenditure is expected to double from US $4 trillion today to $8 trillion by 2030.  
Just as important, food is fundamental to our well-being. We can see this in evolving consumer preferences. For example, many consumers are more health-conscious, with the pandemic putting an even greater focus on health and wellness. The growing group of seniors in many societies will also have their own preferences and needs when it comes to food and nutrition. So the demands on food will continue to grow – not just in terms of quantity,  but also quality and differentiation.   
At the same time, the pandemic and the Ukraine conflict show that disruptions to supply chains can pose a severe challenge to food security. This will be further exacerbated by climate change in the years ahead. Today is Earth Day, and it is a reminder that environmental sustainability remains a key global challenge. We are taking the issue of food security seriously in Singapore, given our land constraints and reliance on food imports. We are therefore working hard towards our national goal of “30 by 30” –  producing 30 per cent of our nutritional needs locally by 2030.  


To respond to these trends, we have made R&D in food a key part of our research efforts. For example, A*STAR’s Singapore Food Story R&D programme focuses on innovations in sustainable urban food solutions, advanced biotech protein production, and food safety science and innovation. I was also glad to hear Professor Chua Kee Chaing, President of SIT,  mention in his speech that sustainable food innovation is a strategic thrust for SIT.   
Now, beyond R&D, commercialisation is also key to translate the findings into practical use. In 2018, I launched the FoodInnovate initiative, a multi-agency effort to support food companies here in innovating, commercialising, and selling. I am glad to see that since the initiative was launched, there has been good momentum. FoodInnovate had supported companies with the commercialisation of close to 400 new products. 
To help companies compress the innovation cycle and get to market more quickly,  a key enabler is a network of shared facilities. Companies in different stages of growth face a variety of challenges in their food innovation journey. Start-ups and SMEs often face hurdles such as a lack of facilities, costly equipment, high opportunity costs and high minimum order requirements from outsourced manufacturers when commercialising new products after R&D. For larger companies and MNCs, it is difficult for them to just stop existing production lines to test new products.  
The launch of FoodPlant today will therefore give an important boost to our food innovation landscape. It will be operated by SIT in partnership with ESG and JTC. It is also Singapore’s first SFA-licensed shared facility. FoodPlant will make available production rooms and food processing equipment such as spray dryer, pulsed electric field equipment, to be used on a pay-per-use basis. These advanced technologies were carefully curated after rounds of industry engagement. Through sharing of the equipment, companies can develop and market-test small batches of their products in a cost-effective way, before scaling up to full production. This will allow companies to shorten their innovation cycle and respond quickly to evolving consumer needs. FoodPlant is expected to benefit at least 200 food manufacturers and support the development of at least 400 new food products by 2026.  
But sharing is not just about the hardware. The cross-pollination of skills and capabilities is just as important. In that regard, I am glad that FoodPlant will be facilitating the transfer of knowledge and skills between SIT and industry, through workshops, masterclasses, and seminars. FoodPlant will also leverage on SIT’s expertise to provide R&D consultancy services in emerging areas such as Future Foods, Elderly Nutrition and Advanced Food Processing.  
I also encourage FoodPlant to think beyond our shores, to collaborate with international partners. I am heartened that FoodPlant and SIT have just signed an MOU with New Zealand’s FOODBOWL a few days ago. The MOU will help both sides develop capabilities in food innovation and manufacturing, through capability sharing and mutual access to industry experts. I am also glad that both sides will be exploring collaborations to develop new technologies to improve food manufacturing processes and meet food sustainability goals. The bilateral relations between Singapore and New Zealand are excellent. I am glad that High Commissioner Jo Tyndall is here today, and hope that our partnership can continue to deepen. I am also confident that FoodPlant will be a good platform to foster cross border collaborations with other international partners.  


In conclusion, it is encouraging that FoodPlant has been well received by the industry, with close to 20 startups, SMEs and MNCs already having signed up as members. I understand that there is strong interest from many other companies. I urge even more companies here to leverage FoodPlant to accelerate your innovation, deepen your capabilities, and forge new partnerships. Singapore, with our high food safety standards and diverse cuisines, is well placed to build on our trusted brand and export our food products to the region and beyond.  
Congratulations, and I am confident that we have the right ingredients for Singapore to be a key node of food and nutrition in Asia.