With the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region comprising the world’s largest population share and also fuelling a rising demand for protein, the pressing issue of food security was one of the important discussions held at the 14th Annual Meeting of the New Champions of the World Economic Forum (WEF), in Tianjin, China, from June 27-29.
Carrie Chan, CEO and co-founder of the cell-cultivated seafood producer Avant (accelerated by Brinc in Fall 2019), was a co-chair at WEF Tianjin event, attended by 1,500 leaders of government, business, civil society and international organisations. In the lead-up to the forum, themed “Entrepreneurship: The Driving Force of the Global Economy,” Chan contributed to the WEF’s agenda paper, “What is the Future For Sustainable Protein in Asia-Pacific?”.
With a mission to “improve the state of the world,” the WEF identifies the global food crisis as a key challenge to tackle. For Chan, a pioneering bio-entrepreneur and passionate environmentalist, this issue bears an all-encompassing weight. “When we talk about a food crisis, it’s not just about alternative proteins, climate change and crop yields,” she explains. “We have to also look at many other related topics, including consumption, malnutrition, obesity, accessibility, affordability. And, while we all know the important role of innovation in AgriTech and FoodTech, we also know this industry needs more investment as well as stronger collaborative efforts between the private sector, farmers, financiers, researchers and governments.”
Chan shares her key thoughts on immediate actions that must be taken to accelerate a sustainable-protein future in the region:
The first step for all is to acknowledge that transforming the food system in APAC is an utmost necessity, not a choice or preference. “Thirty-four per cent of Southern Asia people experience moderate or severe food insecurity, without stable access to affordable food with appropriate nutrition to support health and growth,” Chan says. “Undernourishment issues include micronutrient deficiency, stunting in children, anaemia and obesity in adults.”
The urgent call for government and private-sector action includes both the prioritisation of food security and overhauling the entire food-supply ecosystem. “Farmers need clear, tangible financial incentives to collaborate and overcome the survival focus,” Chan says. “A fragmented market that includes family operations, small businesses or local chains means collaboration is a hurdle for food supply. At the same time, startups need help from big corporations to accelerate commercialisation efforts.” She also says government regulations need to “support and accelerate APAC startups as fast as in Silicon Valley,” and that digitisation strategies — such as of the local and regional food-supply chain to improve transparency and encourage youth participation — are vital.
Across all food-sustainability efforts, innovation, entrepreneurship and collaboration are key immediate strategies for driving change. “The governments and investors in China and APAC need to take more risks in order to make a difference,” Chan says. “We need to develop innovation, which leads to new job creation and opens market opportunities. Deep-tech advancement needs a healthy ecosystem that founders and startups can’t build alone.”
Avant Meats will implement its first pilot production in Singapore by early-2024. Learn more about the company’s mission and journey here.
For more information about Brinc’s FoodTechnology programs or how to apply, please click here.