Combining the functionality-driven cultivation of alternative non-animal protein sources with innovative processing and extraction methods as well as novel reverse food engineering approaches.
The following research objectives are defined:
Develop synergies between cultivation of indoor soybean and algae biomass within optimized space and a minimum use of resources and utilize these raw material sources to gain functional high-value, pleasant-tasting, and functionalized proteins and peptides.
Link efficient and sustainable extraction methods for these protein sources to the techno-functional, nutritive and flavor aspects of food production.
Enable an analytical characterization platform for functionality-driven optimizations of protein cultivation and processing and establish knowledge for functionalization of these proteins/peptides by thermomechanical processing and bioengineering techniques.
Create novel and efficient food production concepts by reverse engineering approaches and launch an additive manufacturing platform for large-scale industrial or decentralized food production platforms.
Specify functional aspects and identify the mechanisms of beneficial food-microbe interactions and their advantages for the Singaporean customer.
Develop a resilient local supply chain of protein-based agri-food products and assess the protein supply chains for the proposed production technologies with the tools of e.g., life-cycle assessment and techno-economic assessment.
Proteins4Singapore's comprehensive approach enables Singapore to provide highly nutritive, savory, and functional protein-based foods by maximizing synergistic effects during cultivation, processing, and consumption.
Assessment on Current Development
Global food supply chains face tremendous challenges: the significant future increase of the global population and ongoing urbanization, climate change, depletion of agricultural landscape and its effects on the availability of habitable and arable space, unexpected and disruptive events, such as the ongoing pandemic of SARS-CoV-2 since 2020, and political uncertainties.
The global population is growing rapidly with an ever-increasing trend towards urbanization and changing nutritional habits. The United Nations (UN) has projected an increase in food demand of 60% by 2050. The UN also predicted that by 2030, already, there will be 43 megacities exceeding 10 million inhabitants and by 2050, 68 % of the 10 billion humans on earth will live in urban areas. Meeting this increase in metropolitan areas is a significant scientific, socio-economic, and political challenge.
Recent technological advances in conventional, predominantly outdoor, farming practices still struggle to meet the required crop production output, indicating an insufficient efficacy development in the medium-term. Innovative approaches can already produce highly nutritious intermediates using less space and having less climatic impact. Concentrated food resources can be produced with minimized requirements to establish a safer, healthier, and more sustainable food chain tailored to a highly urbanized population. It is nearly impossible, however, that conventional agricultural practices will meet the requirements for the next decades. Various adverse global developments are already challenging our current traditional food production system. They continue to disrupt production efficiency, nutritional produce quality and supply chains. These trends induce an urgent need for science-driven innovation and highlight the demand for novel concepts to feed urban populations. In this context, the current situation in Singapore serves as a blueprint for globally relevant scenarios that demand short- to medium-term scientific and technical solutions to feed a densely populated, land-limited urban population.
Food supply security is defined as providing the population with readily available and safe food of appropriate nutrition levels at an affordable price. For Singapore, enhancing food supply security is mandatory considering the limited farming capacity and, as a result, significant dependence on food imports, which exceed locally produced food 9-fold.
Disruption of food supply and cost fluctuations in food imports are significant challenges that need to be addressed. In addition to ensuring food safety, three critical areas for a secure food supply chain in Singapore could include primary production, post-harvest processing and nutrition supply for an ageing population. Technological innovations will be the key to enhance all these areas in Singapore securely. That could include new impulses for agri-tech systems such as indoor farming concepts, technology-driven sustainable food processing innovations such as additive manufacturing, as well as new technologies for a targeted nutrition supply.
Only the joint approach of the research consortium of TUM, NTU, SIT and SIFBI supported by their extensive network will enable a superior scientific approach and exceptional translational perspective to solve one of the most urgent challenges of humanity in future: the secure food supply in megacities.