Singapore university offers the first alternative protein course in Asia Pacific

  • Living
  • Friday, 16 Jul 2021

Singapore has emerged as a hub for the alternative protein industry, but now faces a talent shortage, which the alternative protein university course hopes to redress. — AFP RELAXNEWS

In the alternative protein world, Singapore has quickly emerged as a power player and a regional hub for aspiring food brands looking to branch out into this increasingly lucrative market.

Alternative protein is the umbrella term used to describe plant-based meat (like the hugely popular Beyond Meat burger patties) as well as plant-based dairy and seafood. Cell-cultivated meat which is essentially meat grown in labs, is also a growing facet of the alternative protein sector.

The popularity of alternative proteins has soared during the Covid-19 pandemic amid concerns about animal consumption and sustainability.

This is where Singapore comes in. The land-scarce nation has long imported 90% its food from other countries but now has a goal of producing 30% of its own food needs by 3030.

To achieve this status, the government has actively developed the city state into a magnet for innovative food technologists and entrepreneurs, with schemes like the $144 million (RM445 million) Singapore Food Story R&D programme, which enables research and development in urban farming, future foods and food safety science and innovation.

Students of the ground-breaking alternative protein course will learn all about plant-based meat, cultivated meat and fermentation. — IMPOSSIBLE FOODSStudents of the ground-breaking alternative protein course will learn all about plant-based meat, cultivated meat and fermentation. — IMPOSSIBLE FOODS

Unsurprisingly, Singapore is now a global hub for numerous alternative protein brands like San Francisco-based Eat Just, which produces plant-based eggs and secured the Singapore government’s approval to sell cell-cultured meat (a first in the world). Other international brands that have found a home in Singapore include Perfect Day, which makes plant-based dairy and has set up its research and development facility in Singapore.

Singapore also has a number of homegrown brands under its auspices, including TurtleTree, which aims to make cell-cultured milk and breast milk as well as Tindle, which produces plant-based chicken.

But having so many alternative protein brands in one tiny city state has created a major challenge: there are simply not enough skilled talents to take on the surging demand in the burgeoning alternative protein industry.

“Singapore has become the top choice for both international food tech start-ups seeking a regional base of operations as well as multinational legacy companies like Givaudan and Bühler, which just opened the region’s first plant-based protein innovation centre a few months ago.

“With all of the major companies moving in, it has actually created a talent shortage in The Lion City, which is why we are working to boost the number of young people working in the field by launching an alternative proteins university course in Singapore, ” says Mirte Gosker, acting managing editor of The Good Food Institute Asia Pacific (GFI APAC), a non-profit organisation which aims to increase awareness about alternative proteins.

The Asia Pacific region is the fastest-growing in the world for alternative proteins. — IMPOSSIBLE FOODSThe Asia Pacific region is the fastest-growing in the world for alternative proteins. — IMPOSSIBLE FOODS

The historic alternative protein course is now a reality and will be launched in August this year at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore, ranked the 11th university in the world and third in Asia in the 2020 QS World University Rankings.

The course, which is the first of its kind in the Asia Pacific region, will be coordinated by Professor William Chen, director of NTU’s food science and technology programme, in collaboration with GFI’s global network of scientists.

The ‘Future Foods – Introduction to Advanced Meat Alternatives’ course will teach students the three main technologies in the alternative protein field – cultivated meat, plant-based protein and fermentation.

Students of the course will also learn real-world challenges of the industry, including consumer response to products as well as the regulatory environment in Singapore and will have to develop a research proposal to address an existing challenge in the industry.

Chen says the course will be instrumental in creating new skill sets in Singapore and beyond.

“Alternative protein production has emerged as a powerful economic engine in Asia, potentially creating jobs for skilled young people from across the novel food landscape, ” he says.

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