SINGAPORE: Food manufacturers will soon be able to test whether their new products will be successful, without having to face high opportunity costs or purchasing their own equipment.
On Tuesday (Jul 31), Enterprise Singapore, JTC Corp and the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) signed an agreement to set up a shared facility for small batch production to support innovation in the food industry.
The facility, expected to open by end-2019, aims to help companies overcome challenges in the development and manufacturing of new food products.
Located at JTC Food Hub @ Senoko and operated by SIT, the 1,130 sqm facility will have eight production rooms, which will be rented out to companies for small batch production. SIT said it is still working out the details of the tenancy agreement.
Food processing equipment such as spray dryers and extruders, as well as advanced equipment that could cost more than S$1 million, will also be available to companies on a pay-per-use basis.
The JTC Food Hub @ Senoko, which started operations in July last year, currently houses eight food companies. Two more companies will set up next month.
JTC Food Hub offers shared facilities and services to help to reduce capital and operating costs. One such feature is an integrated cold room and warehouse facility that tenants can tap on a pay-per-use basis.
One company that has benefited from this is Tenderfresh Fried and BBQ Chicken, which said it has seen a 20 per cent increase in productivity.
Mr Jimmy Soh, managing director of Tenderfresh, said: “The modular units at Food Hub has given us the flexibility to combine two factory units for a larger factory floor.
"This has allowed us to consolidate our operations, redesign our production layout and make further investments in automation," he said.
According to SIT, more than 15 companies have already expressed their interest in the shared facility for small batch food production.
On top of hardware support, the JTC Food Hub will also have workplace training courses, masterclasses and seminars.
Speaking at the official opening ceremony of JTC Food Hub on Tuesday, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Education Chee Hong Tat said a lack of scale and in-house capabilities could hinder food companies from innovating.
"SMEs (small- and medium-size enterprises) in particular may find it difficult to do small batch production to test their new ideas, as the equipment is expensive and outsourcing to a contract manufacturer requires a larger minimum order size than what they need," said Mr Chee.
"This increases the cost of experimentation and has resulted in a low commercialisation rate," he added.
In 2017, the food industry added S$4.3 billion to Singapore's gross domestic product, a 14 per cent increase from the previous year.