Singapore cultivates "Silicon Valley of food"

"It's no coincidence that Singapore is the world's first cultivated meat market," said Mirte Gosker of the nonprofit Good Food Institute Asia Pacific (GFI APAC). "The government has invested the resources necessary to create a welcoming ecosystem for food innovation."

The city-state makes up Asia's vanguard in the battle to ensure reliable access to food. United Nations estimates suggest over 350 million people across the region are undernourished while roughly 1 billion faced moderate or severe food insecurity in 2019.

"Resilience means having the ability to withstand perturbations to the food supply," said Paul Teng, a food security expert at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University (NTU). "The government's strategy was, 'If we increase GDP, and have the means to purchase food, then we don't have to worry because somebody will always have food to sell,'" Teng said. "This is fine and dandy if there is no disruption to  food production and supply chain."

"Consumers are increasingly more critical of the food they are eating," said Aileen Supriyadi, a research analyst at the market research firm Euromonitor International. "Especially with the recent COVID-19 pandemic and African swine fever cases affecting livestock in the region, consumers have grown more concerned with regard to food safety."

Jakarta is a good example, according to Christian Prokscha, founder of Eden Towers, which opened a vertical farm there in February. "You can grow things on the hills outside Jakarta," he said, "but the problem is that you have a very long logistics route."

Additionally, Yeo says "the one big challenge" of indoor farms is the cost of facilities and sophisticated equipment. Singapore has provided generous grants over the years, including a SG$60 million fund launched in April that helps would-be farmers defray initial building expenses. But few Southeast Asian countries have pockets as deep as Singapore's.

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