Signaling a new wave of activity in the precision fermentation space, agri-food giant ADM has linked up with Asia Sustainable Foods Platform in a joint venture company, ScaleUp Bio. Based in Singapore, the new firm will operate a new pilot laboratory for start-ups engaging in precision fermentation for food applications, helping them to propel innovation rapidly.
Precision fermentation has attracted significant investment from global players over the last year, due to its capacity to sustainably create new animal-based food ingredients – such as dairy and proteins – without any animal inputs.
ScaleUp Bio is deemed the first company in Singapore to offer contract development and manufacturing organization services for start-ups specializing in this field.
Upon maturity of their growth cycle, start-ups can transition to ScaleUp Bio’s new facility, which can further support up to 10,000 L fermentation capacity. Located in Singapore’s Tuas district, the facility will be wholly owned and operated by ScaleUp Bio and is targeted to be operational by mid-2023.
“We are seeing strong demand for alternative protein sources and more companies are developing new alternative protein solutions to meet these needs,” remarks Francisco Codoñer, CEO of ScaleUp Bio.
“With our facilities and technical know-how, we are well-positioned to support and help these companies advance their fermentation innovations.”
This is the latest move along ADM’s sustainable food investment path which, over the last year, has encompassed new collaborations in the space of cell-based meat and plant-based protein diversification.
Helping alleviate pain points of food-tech start-ups
ScaleUp Bio has entered into a multi-year partnership with A*STAR’s Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation (SIFBI) to establish a joint lab focused on precision fermentation.
The food-grade pilot scale facility will provide technological development and precision fermentation for companies producing a wide variety of bio-based products, including alternative proteins, to serve growing consumer demand in Singapore and the wider Asia-Pacific region.
Scheduled to be operational in Q1 2023, the joint lab will be situated within the Food Tech Innovation Centre (FTIC) at Biopolis. It will hold extrusion and fermentation equipment, shared labs, test kitchens and co-working spaces.
It will provide start-ups with fermenters that can support up to 100 L in capacity, associated downstream processing units and relevant testing, as well as analytical equipment for full optimization.
Mathys Boeren, CEO of the Asia Sustainable Foods Platform, highlights the joint lab as the “first of many offerings” within the FTIC.
“As a one-stop shop, our goal is to help food start-ups address pain points for food-tech businesses, such as long wait times for pilot-scale facilities and equipment; the lack of deep product and process development capabilities; and the difficulty in navigating regulatory processes and understanding unfamiliar markets in other parts of Asia,” she comments.
Mammoth investment in Asia’s food-tech center
Last November, the Asia Sustainable Foods Platform and A*STAR’s SIFBI committed to invest over SGD 30 million (US$21.7 million) over the next three years in FTIC.
“Partnering with A*STAR’s SIFBI, companies, including start-ups, can gain access to leading R&D capabilities and expertise in precision fermentation and downstream processing, enabling them to shorten their innovation cycle and time to market.
“The collaboration with ScaleUp Bio is a great example of how public-private sector partnerships can contribute significantly to the flourishing and vibrant food-tech landscape here in Singapore,” comments Dr. Hazel Khoo, executive director, SIFBI.
“We look forward to collaborating with start-ups and MNCs in the alternative protein space to innovate sustainable food solutions that can also scale to market rapidly.”
Precision fermentation is on the rise
In a life cycle assessment by Perfect Day, precision fermentation processes may use up to 99% less water while producing up to 97% fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional production methods.
Precision fermentation can be harnessed to create sustainable alternatives to animal-based ingredients, such as cow-free whey protein. It has previously been leveraged in Dutch plant-based manufacturer Fooditive’s vegan casein applied in an alternative milk format.
Last month, animal-free dairy creator Remilk obtained self-affirmed GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status, in accordance with US Food and Drug Administration requirements, paving the way for “non-animal, real-dairy” products based on precision fermentation in the US.
In other moves, Israeli biotechnology start-up Phytolon is taking food coloring to the next level by leveraging a novel technology to produce natural pigments via the precision fermentation of yeast. Last month, it secured US$14.5 million in funding, led by DSM Venturing.
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