Take a minute to imagine the future: where will the food we eat come from? How will it be grown? What will our kitchens look like? What will we be eating?

3D printed food, insects, vertical farms, lab-grown meat. All these seemingly fictional ideas could very soon be a reality. The quest to create a new and desirable future in the way we produce and consume food has a new player, and it is starting in Singapore.

GROW is a global startup accelerator that specialises in agriculture and food technology (agrifood tech). It is launched by AgFunder, one of the most aggressive agrifood tech venture capital and has strong connections with Australia and the global agrifood community. GROW attracts local, regional and international agrifood tech startups to the accelerator program in Singapore.

The Singapore government has turned a lot of attention to food security with the announcement of its ambitious ‘30 by 30’ target to produce 30% of its nutritional needs locally by 2030 – it is currently under 10%. In land-scarce Singapore, the focus will be to boost capabilities in ‘growing upwards’ with urban farming. Funds like VisVires New Protein, Big Idea Ventures and AgFunder’s very own New Carnivore Fund are fueling the alternative protein revolution by encouraging the commercialisation of plant-based, insect-based and cell-based meat. Aquaculture is also an area of focus with the establishment of the Aquaculture Innovation Centre. If you are in agrifood tech, Singapore is the place to be.

There is a strong foodie scene in Singapore that is beneficial for foodtech innovation. The sheer population of Asia means there are a lot of mouths to feed and stomachs to fill. Startups and established companies have their eyes set on Asia as a potential market and Singapore is strategically positioned as a gateway.

There is global interest in agrifood tech with $16.9 billion of funding in 2018, according to AgFunder Investing Report. This interest is a reflection of the urgent need to innovate and increase food production by 2050 to sustainably feed nine billion people. It is also fueled by the rise of conscious consumers demanding sustainable and clean food, recognising the impact that agriculture has on climate change.

As GROW is supported by Enterprise Singapore, it has aligned closely to Singapore’s food security narrative. They accelerate disruptive technologies in urban farming (indoor and vertical farms), alternative protein, aquaculture solutions and digital supply chain innovation. However, given the company’s overall expertise, it explores innovation along the entire agriculture-food value chain. This includes – but doesn’t limit – to solutions in IoT sensing technologies to improve food quality and safety, traceability, food waste, personalised nutrition and functional foods.

The field of agrifood tech is extremely exciting because it is multifaceted, requiring solutions that are commercial, good for people and good for the planet. The pursuit of such mutually beneficial outcomes is relatable to Echos’ philosophy of designing desirable futures.

Some would argue that there are three paths to innovation. GROW fast tracks the ‘new and novel’ not by chance or improvisation, but through deliberate acts of innovation by design. They embrace the creative world of design as much as Echos does. Although technology is a key component in innovation, GROW emphasises the importance of being human-centred. After all, agriculture reflects people’s relationship with Earth and food is exceptionally human – cuisines express the identity of cultures and relationships are forged over meals. 

Located at the iconic BLOCK71, the heartland of startup Singapore, GROW is set to shape a vibrant agrifood tech startup ecosystem here in Singapore, the ASEAN region with close connections to Australia.

To this end, we are looking to work with people passionate about guiding agrifood tech startups to success to join in the global agrifood tech movement that it is creating. Whether you are an entrepreneur with an idea, a corporate looking to explore new frontiers, a subject matter expert in a related field to agrifood, a willing mentor or someone with interest in the subject – there are a multitude of ways to get involved and be part of the GROW global innovation network.*

The quest to design a new and desirable future in the way we produce and consume food does not rest on one person or a unicorn startup. It requires a collective effort. I invite you to join in the action as we ‘cook up a feast’ and positively design our shared food and agriculture system with technology.

If you made it all through to the end of this article, odds are you are a professional looking to develop your Design Thinking and innovation skills or, perhaps, a team leader who is in need of a consultancy to accelerate the innovation projects in your company. If that sounds like you, you should check out Echos’ offering for on-campus courses or in-house training programs.

*To get in touch with Joshua, you can email him at joshua@gogrow.co or connect with him through LinkedIn. This article has been edited and adapted by Rani Ghazzaoui Luke.

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Joshua Soo

Joshua Soo is a creative innovation strategist and business designer. He helps startups, corporates and governments uncover growth opportunities, transform business models and deliver customer-centric solutions. Joshua is currently the Head of Innovation & Strategy at GROW where he leads the accelerator program and services its corporate clients. His current focus is the global agriculture and food system and growing the agrifood tech startup ecosystem in Singapore and the ASEAN region. Prior to this, he has consulted to organisations in Healthcare, Pharmaceutical, Disability Services, Aged Care, Property/Construction and Transport. Soo is a guest contributor to the Echos’ blog, where he explores themes such as design, business and the future of agriculture.

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