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Guide On Becoming A Sustainable Food Business (And Grants Available In Singapore)

Singapore currently imports 90% of its food from more than 170 countries and regions.

Sustainable food business

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In a future where food supplies are likely to become more vulnerable and disrupted, developing domestic food security is increasingly important. Singapore, a country that imports 90% of its food from more than 170 countries and regions, pursues three core “Food Baskets” to strengthen our food security.

First is to have diversified sources of import; second is to help local food companies grow overseas and export them back to Singapore; and third is to grow more locally.

To make our food supply more resilient, the 30-by-30 target, to have 30% of our nutritional needs met by locally and sustainably produced food by 2030, was announced in 2019 as part of the Singapore Green Plan 2030.

To grow this nascent local agri-tech industry in the production of eggs, fish, and leafy vegetables, the government has introduced many grants and has made more land tenders available. Find out how you can seize this growing opportunity as Singapore aims for greater food sustainability.

What Is Food Sustainability?

Food sustainability is not only how the food is produced, but also how it is packaged, distributed, and consumed.

This is the driving force behind the growing movement for urban farming and building sustainable food logistics. The aim is to address the fact that significantly more resources go into our food system than come out of it.

For Singapore, this entails transforming our agri-food industry into one that is highly productive, employing climate-resilient, resource-efficient, and sustainable production methods and technologies.

Why Food Sustainability Is Important?

#1 Maximising Our Limited Land Space

Singapore is a small and highly developed country. Today, only 1% of our land is used for food farms, as there are competing needs for commercial and housing uses.

To overcome this challenge, more farms in Singapore have been experimenting with rooftop gardens and indoor vertical farms. These farms emit low-carbon emissions and use water to power the rotating towers. By employing technology like automation and robotics, farms can not only reduce their manpower and operation costs but also facilitate the scaling up of future production.

#2 Growing Locally Reduces Our Carbon Footprint

In addition to enhancing our food security, growing and consuming locally grown produce also means less risk of spoilage and food waste as the produce travels a shorter distance to reach us.

Moreover, local produce would have lower food miles, thus lower transport emissions compared to imported produce. This will contribute to helping us achieve our net zero emissions target.

#3 Reducing Our Food Waste

By nurturing a sustainable food chain, we can reduce food waste from farm to fork.

Today, food waste accounts for about 12% of the total waste generated in Singapore, translating to around 817,000 tonnes. This is alarming given the limited capacity at our Semakau landfill, which may be fully filled by 2035 at our current rate of waste generation.

Moreover, when food is wasted, so does all the resources that go into growing and delivering it to our table, including disposing of it. This naturally increases our carbon footprint and wastes our precious resources.

Sustainable Food Business (And Examples)

A sustainable food business can operate at any level of the F&B value chain, which consists of the producers and farmers, processors and manufacturers, distributors, and, finally, the restaurants and F&B services.

For instance, Singapore-based sustainable and innovative foodware company, TRIA, aims to address the food industry’s circularity problem involving a large amount of packaging and food waste. Its Bio24 table-to-farm solution can treat both types of waste without segregation. It converts the waste matter into farm-ready compost using its proprietary plant-based material NEUTRIA® and digestor.

As part of OCBC’s Sustainability Innovation Challenge (OSIC), TRIA is currently developing its plant-based packaging to support SATS’ catering operations.

Another local company that’s pioneering farm technology is Netatech. By leveraging its expertise in rainwater harvesting and drip irrigation, it successfully implemented vertical farming in a dense urban environment at the side of Block 146 Tampines Avenue 5. As the first community-based circular economy ecosystem for sustainable food production that also includes a tilapia farm and a black soldier fly facility, it materialises the true farm-to-fork journey. As a result, residents would be able to purchase leafy vegetables like Nai Bai, lettuce, Red Bayam, Spinach and Sharp Bayam directly from the farm.

How Can You Become A Sustainable Food Business In Singapore?

Like the two companies mentioned above, your F&B business can also be part of Singapore’s sustainable movement by adopting the following measures:

Reduce Food Waste

Food businesses could look to reduce their food waste by working closely with their suppliers to reduce overstocking and adopt recycling efforts to reduce waste.

Furthermore, food businesses could donate their excess food to organisations like Food from the Heart, which collects excess food from other food suppliers and re-distributes it to grassroots organisations and welfare homes benefiting low-income individuals and families. Reduce Water Waste

Water is a precious commodity in Singapore. Bigger companies can adopt the ISO 46001 for guidance on water efficiency management, which includes assessing and accounting for water usage, as well as ways to identify and implement measures to optimise water use.

On a smaller level, companies can use water-saving faucets and adopt good water-saving habits.

Reduce Energy Waste

The cost of energy or electricity has been rising due to the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, which has impacted many businesses in Singapore greatly. Companies could initiate energy-efficient projects and incorporate green energy sources like the use of solar panels to power their energy needs. If you are undecided between owning or leasing a solar energy system, draw on the expertise of solar providers whom you can work with while tapping OCBC’s solar financing.

On a smaller scale, companies can also invest in energy-efficient appliances like LED bulbs and air-conditioners, to name a few, that can lower their operation costs by being more energy efficient.

Greening Your Supply Chain

Depending on which stage of the value chain your business is in, you can look to making your value chain more sustainable by employing technology to be more resource-efficient or partnering with suppliers who adopt more sustainable and environmentally friendly business practices.

Available Support For Sustainable Food Businesses In Singapore

Food businesses that intend to transform or develop their capabilities to seize the opportunities in the local agri-food sector have various funding schemes that support them. They are:

Agri-Food Cluster Transformation (ACT) Fund

The $60 million Agri-Food Cluster Transformation (ACT) Fund was announced in March 2021. It helps local farms build and expand their production capacities and capabilities through upscaling technology, innovation and test-bedding, and capability upgrading.

The scheme, which is available for applications till 31 December 2025, provides a higher co-funding quantum of $4.5 million per company to support local farms’ use of high-tech farming systems.

Energy Efficiency Grant

From 1 September 2022, local SMEs in the food services, food manufacturing, and retail sectors can apply for the Energy Efficiency Grant. The scheme provides funding support of up to 70%, capped at $30,000 per company, to purchase energy-efficient equipment in categories such as LED lighting, air-conditioners, cooking hobs, refrigerators, water heaters, and dryers.

Companies could make use of these grants amidst the high electricity costs to help them improve their energy efficiency levels and reduce energy consumption, which would reduce their cost of doing business.

Read Also: How Businesses Can Tap On NEA’s Energy Efficiency Fund (E2F) To Reduce Their Electricity Usage

Get The Support You Need

No matter how big or small a sustainable food business is, it may need ad hoc funding for day-to-day cashflow needs, asset upgrading, or business expansion plans.

Like TRIA, other SMEs intending to start a sustainable business or green project could consider taking a green loan. Unlike a regular business loan, you would have to align your green loan in accordance with four components: use of proceeds, project evaluation and selection, management of proceeds, and reporting.

SMEs could also use the OCBC SME Sustainability Financing Framework to achieve their sustainability goals quickly and easily.

Moreover, with OCBC, SMEs have increased accessibility to sustainable financing at every stage of the F&B value chain regardless of certification under the recognised sustainable schemes. Beyond energy and emissions, businesses could also get financing for the sourcing of ingredients, packaging, and sustainable logistics.

Seize Opportunities In The Agri-Food Industry 

Singapore’s food services industry makes up about 0.6% of the country’s GDP, employing over 220,300 workers as of the end of 2021.

Existing food businesses and new ones could try to set themselves apart by using sustainability as a selling point to meet the growing demand of consumers who seek more sustainable and environmentally friendly options.

Do Well, Do Good, Do Now

Learn more about how OCBC’s solutions can support you in creating a more sustainable future.

Need Financing Support During This Period?

Enjoy fast access to funds and receive your loan approval status instantly when you apply online with OCBC.

For SMEs that are just six months into operations, secure up to S$100,000 with the OCBC Business First Loan . If your SME is above two years old, secure up to S$700,000 with the OCBC Business Term Loan – good for funding business operations or expansion. Terms and conditions apply.

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