SINGAPORE: American firm Perfect Day, which manufactures animal-free dairy proteins, will be collaborating with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) to launch a research and development (R&D) centre in Singapore.
The facility, which will be operational in April next year, will leverage on the capabilities of two A*STAR research institutes - the Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation, which has expertise in taste analysis, and the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, with its capabilities in the study of proteins.
Perfect Day and A*STAR signed an agreement on Monday (Dec 21), which was witnessed by Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.
The joint laboratory will support Perfect Day’s global R&D activities, with a focus on “developing analytical systems that will be critical for ensuring the accuracy, specificity, and consistency of Perfect Day’s fermentation processes and protein ingredients,” said Mr Chan.
He noted that Perfect Day would also hire and train a pool of researchers, scientists and engineers locally, and that the collaboration would further anchor the company’s investments in Singapore as well as develop the country’s R&D talent.
Formed in 2014, Perfect Day makes its animal-free dairy proteins by providing microflora, a type of micro-organism. The microflora is given a genetic "blueprint" found in whey and casein proteins to create real dairy proteins identical to those found in cow's milk.
These can then be used to make products like ice cream, cheese and yogurt. While they have the same taste and texture as traditional dairy products, they are made in a more sustainable manner and will have a smaller environmental footprint.
Perfect Day has raised US$360 million in its latest round of funding from investors which include Temasek and Hong Kong venture capital firm Horizons Ventures.
The company is “actively working” to commercialise its products here, co-founder Perumal Ghandi told reporters during a press conference on Monday.
The agri-food tech sector is a bright spot amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, said Mr Chan, adding there are increasing opportunities to grow Singapore’s sustainable food production model both locally and across the region.
He pointed to global companies such as German indoor vertical farming firm &ever, which had announced plans to set up a farm producing 500 tonnes of vegetables a year as well as a global R&D centre in Singapore.
Meanwhile local start ups, Shiok Meats - which produces cultured crustacean products - and TurtleTree Labs - which works with cell-cultured milk spaces - had recently raised US$20.4 million and US$9.4 million respectively, he noted.
READ: COVID-19 pandemic highlights importance of strengthening Singapore's food security, say experts
The Government is building a “vibrant cluster” of financing firms as well as a base of global agri-food accelerators, said Mr Chan.
“Our eventual aim is to build up the talent pool with expertise to deploy more than S$90 million of capital,” he said.
“To help groom local talent in this sector we will work with leading global industry players such as Perfect Day to build up their workforce capabilities and ensure we remain open to good talent,” he said, adding that greater collaborations would be fostered with institutes of higher learning and industry players to nurture future talent.
Growing Singapore’s agri-food tech sector will not only help the country meet its goal of producing 30 per cent of its food by 2030, but also meet the growing food needs of the Asia-Pacific market in a more environmentally-friendly manner, he said.
“How do we meet a growing global population in a more sustainable manner that reduces the harm to the environment? These are all very critical questions that, COVID or no COVID, we will have to address in the coming years,” he added.
“And that's why our sense of the market is not just about how big the local market is, but it's really about how big the global market can be.”