Food insecurity remains a big issue in Southeast Asia. According to an October 2020 report by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) 60 million people did not eat well despite the improvements in agricultural output. The region has been turning to food technology (foodtech) to resolve these food shortages and meet their people’s nutritional needs in recent years.
Last year, Asian food startups with a $1 billion USD valuation, known as unicorns, had a combined worth of €274 billion Euros. This growth is due to the strong demand for healthier agricultural products and receiving foodstuffs conveniently at home.
Foodtech in Singapore is developing at a fast pace as the country does not have sufficient farm space. Since it cannot cultivate crops the traditional way, it has had to resort to technology to address the food challenges. For example, it is using cell culture expertise to produce meat in laboratories.
We explore foodtech in Southeast Asia and how it is changing
When a tech startup like Chope raises funds, it shows the industry is ripe for more significant growth. Residents are looking for services that develop food, deliver it, or make it accessible through various platforms. We look at the success of Chope and four other key players in the foodtech startup segment in Singapore:
For diners and restaurants, Chope provides an easy-to-use solution for making reservations. The company started in 2011, and it not only serves Singapore but also areas such as Indonesia, Hong Kong, China, and Thailand. It partners with restaurants and charges them for bookings made through its system.
The platform offers a real-time service for users and is available through a website or mobile app. Diners can search for food spots, book or cancel reservations at no cost. The app helps restaurants with marketing, guest seating, analytics, and managing customer information and tastes.
In August, Chope raised $15 million USD in Series E funding to bring its total to $50.3 million USD. Its investors include Square Peg Capital, Openspace Ventures, Susquehanna International Group, Singapore Press Holdings, NSI Ventures, Singha Ventures, DSG Consumer Partners, Moelis Australia Asset Management, and C31 Ventures.
The first of the cell-based meat and seafood producing companies on this list are Shiok Meats. It aims to deliver delicious meat in an environmentally, animal, and health-friendly manner. It uses healthy animal cells to grow meat, shrimp, lobsters, and crabs.
In July, the company brought its total raised capital to $30 million USD. Its investors include CJ CheilJedang Corporation, Woowa Brothers Asia Holdings, Vinh Hoan Corporation, IRONGREY, Mindshift Capital, Boom Capital Fund, Big Idea Ventures, and Alexander Payne Living Trust. Other funding partners are Henry Soesanto, Twynam Investments, Beyond Impact Vegan Partners, and Seikan Group Holdings.
abillionVeg, now known simply as abillion, is a social media app used to encourage the world to choose vegan, ethical, and sustainable goods. People use the app to find vegan dish locations near them or to review meals, restaurants, and fashion and beauty products on the market. Afterwards, users can connect with the rest of the online community and share their views or findings.
The company has had four funding rounds, with the most recent one in July, raising the total amount to $6.5 million USD. Its investors include Midas Ventures, 1/0 Capital, 500 Startups, The Mills Fabrica, Calibre Ventures, and Nan Fung Group.
In 2017, co-founders Neeraj and Tan opened Zeemart, a mobile and online marketplace connecting buyers and food suppliers. It serves fast-food restaurants, cafés, hawkers, hotels, restaurants, and institutional kitchens. It lists vetted supplier inventories and ingredients, places and manages orders, and digitises invoices and transactions.
Thus far, the company has raised $9.2 million SGD over two rounds. Its investors include Sheng Siong Group, KPISOFT INC, Prem Pillay, Kresna Graha Investama, and Jungle Ventures.
The second cell-cultured meat producer on this list is Umami Meats. The company cultivates affordable, sustainable seafood and meat using cells and fish tissue. Its goal is to solve some of the world’s food problems, one of which is the demand for alternative protein sources that do not harm the environment.
It received non-equity assistance funding from Creative Destruction Lab in January this year. Other investors include Sustainable Food Ventures, Hatch (Canada), and Prithvi Ventures.
As Chope raises funds, it is easy to forget that it is not the only one disrupting the food sector and bringing welcome change to the residents. Foodtech in Singapore will help address challenges in the supply chain and fight scarcity. It will also boost revenues for online food delivery companies, with expectations of a 16.7% growth in 2022.
The demand for alternative, safer, healthier, and environmentally friendly food will continue to rise. The government must continue to invest in sustainable agriculture and set policies that encourage foodtech startup growth and innovative research to ensure the future of Singapore’s food security.