Among the many things the pandemic has taught us, one of the major lessons gleaned from it would have to be food security in Singapore. The fact that our land-scarce island imports 90% of our food supply makes us particularly vulnerable to global food market volatility. And, the pandemic has served us a firm reminder that food security can never be taken for granted.
Being more self-sustainable has therefore been the focus of the Government. By 2030, Singapore aims to locally produce 30% (30X30) of our nutritional needs. To further boost the agri-food tech sector, Enterprise Singapore injected more than $55 million last year to help local agriculture and aquaculture companies boost their innovation capabilities.
Singapore may lack the space and land for farming but that has not stopped entrepreneurs from venturing into urban farming with some of them combining high-tech solutions to boost yield production. Once a sunset industry requiring manual labour, agriculture is now an innovation sector that has been identified as an area of growth.
If you have an agri-food tech idea or you already own a small farming business and want to improve yield and work processes through innovation, below are some Singapore-based accelerator programmes and incubators you can consider approaching to kickstart or scale-up your business.
#1 GROW Agrifoodtech Accelerator
GROW, a venture capital-backed accelerator, is Southeast Asia’s first dedicated agri-food tech accelerator. Founded by two of the world’s leaders in the agri-food tech business, AgFunder and RocketSeeder, GROW invests US$100,000 cash and US$100,000 of in-kind services in technological solutions that are able to solve Asia’s biggest agri-food challenges and scale them rapidly.
They also have a free online Innovation Program designed to teach anyone passionate about agri-food tech, ideal for first-time founders or serial entrepreneurs. GROW also runs a 12-week virtual accelerator – Singapore Food Bowl – bringing together local and regional startups to address Singapore’s 30X30 vision.
Some home-grown startups that were part of the GROW accelerator program include SinGene and SinGrow, which developed innovative cultivation methods for high-value crops such as strawberries. Other startups include those in South Korea, United States, Canada and India.
#2 The Yield Lab Asia Pacific Fund
The Yield Lab Asia Pacific is an agri-tech focused fund and part of the global The Yield Lab network of funds based in North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific. It also invests in all sub-sectors, including animal health (includes aquaculture), crop production, food ingredients, precision agriculture, supply chain and sustainability.
Their accelerator program is suitable for early-stage or late early-stage agri-tech innovations-based startups,as well as those looking to expand in the Asia Pacific region. Startups will have an opportunity to gain a US$100,000 to US$120,000 in investments if selected.
Singapore urban farm Archisen, which grows Just Produce vegetables, was part of the accelerator program with The Yield Lab.
#3 Hatch Blue
Hatch Blue is the world’s first sustainable aquaculture accelerator program to seek innovative solutions to achieve the least-possible footprint of farmed and alternative seafood.
Hatch Blue is looking for pre-seed or seed startups with innovative and scalable solutions for relevant aquaculture problems as well as alternative seafood/protein. If selected for their accelerator program, Hatch Blue offers US$130,000 in funding, mentorship, access to market data and intelligence platforms, and so on.
Hatch Blue has helped many aquaculture startups around the world, from UK, US and Australia to Norway, Indonesia, and India. Singapore-based startup Kinnva, which converts methane into feed protein and bioplastics, was part of the Hatch Blue accelerator program too.
#4 Innovate 360
Innovate 360 is part of Cheng Yew Heng – Singapore’s oldest sugar manufacturer, logistics provider and soft commodity trader – which owns brands such as Star, Cheng, Jewels Rock Sugar Sticks, and D’ Petite Baker.
It is the first food incubator in Singapore with manufacturing facilities and food factory licence, as well as business experience and networks to help startups commercialise their ideas. Startups gain access to shared facilities, co-working spaces, mentors and industry partners.
Innovate 360 funds early-stage companies in the food innovation space within the Southeast Asia region, focusing specifically in the deep technology, agricultural/aquaculture, and manufacturing of consumer products for retail and industrial customers. Their initial investment in a company ranges from $50k to $250k, or higher in certain cases.
A number of Singaporean food startups have gone through the startup program at Innovate 360, including Kombynation Co., HaruPlate, SinFooTech, Asia Insect Farm Solution, and many more.
#5 Big Idea Ventures
Big Idea Ventures invests in alternative protein companies. Twice a year, they will invest US$125,000 of cash and US$75,000 of in-kind services to support early-stage companies based in the Asia Pacific region that are looking to grow or companies outside of the region that want to expand their market into Asia. The accelerator program is a rigorous 5-month program with access to test kitchen facilities, a global mentor network, and corporate partners.
Big Idea Ventures is backed by Temasek Holdings, with Saudi Arabi’s Prince Khaled Bin Alwaleed as one of their advisors. Local startups that Big Idea Ventures has invested in include Gaia Foods, Karana, LVL Life, Confetti Fine Foods and Shiok Meats.
#6 Trendlines Agrifood Innovation Centre
Trendlines Agrifood Innovation Centre is an incubator and an investment company in early-stage and late-stage agri-food technology startups. It is a subsidiary of The Trendlines Group in Israel, so startups will gain access to its agricultural experts and research centres there.
Trendlines has a wide portfolio of various food tech startups focusing on interesting innovations, such as automatic in-water fish sorting and harvesting, edible grasshoppers, and automatic robotic milking systems.
#7 The Hatchery
Supported by Temasek Life Sciences Accelerator, The Hatchery is a local incubator dedicated to innovative ideas in the agri-food tech sector. It helps startups at ideation, pre-seed or seed stage with innovative and scalable solutions in agri-food tech.
Their incubation program is for one year and the startup teams are typically housed at Temasek Life Sciences Accelerator’s space located within the building of Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory at National University of Singapore (NUS). The Hatchery start-up teams will have access to integrated research workspace, cutting-edge scientific equipment and central research support services, and a global network of venture capitalists, angel investors and executives with fund-raising support services.
Temasek Rice, a climate-resistant rice developed and grown in Singapore, was one of the startups incubated with The Hatchery.
Sifood targets companies that produce novel ingredients and food solutions or food-tech services. Besides investment capital, they also provide guidance and mentorship from industry veterans.
Home-grown startups that they have guided include Incubaker, Confetti Fine Foods, Amz Organics, Ye Traditions, and Save A Crust.
Need Financing Support During This Period?
From now till 31 March 2021, SMEs can enjoy extra financing support of up to $5 million through the Temporary Bridging Loan Programme.
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