Technology Primer: Technology Innovations for Food Security (PDF)
Food security is generally defined as to provide population with readily available and safe food of appropriate nutrition level at an affordable price. Enhancing food security for Singapore is even more important considering the limited farming capacity and, as a result, heavy dependence on food import (more than 90%) for local consumption. Disruption of food supply and cost fluctuations in food import are real challenges to be addressed. The impact on the environment by the amount of food waste (800,000 tonnes) and plastic packaging waste (800,000 tonnes) generated yearly in Singapore needs to be reduced. In addition to ensuring food safety, three critical areas for food security in Singapore may include primary production, post-harvest processing and nutrition for the ageing population.
Technology innovations are key to enhance food security in Singapore. These may include new ways to monitor food supply chain and enhance food fraud traceability (blockchain and artificial intelligence), integrated system for urban farming (sensor for real time monitoring of farming conditions), technology-driven food waste management (zero waste food processing), new ways to measure gut microbiome as indicator of food nutrition (non-invasive measurement of gut microbiome functionality), and platform technology to develop alternative and unconventional food sources (insects and microalgae).
NTU's strength in interdisciplinary research with their strong credentials in technology innovations, make us strong leaders for this important endeavour. Progress made by NTU Food Science and Technology Programme (NTU FST) has been encouraging, and generated significant interest and investment from food industry and government agencies.
NTU FST researchers have successfully developed technology innovations of relevance to Singapore food industry. For example, fermentation technology has been developed for nutrient recovery from side-streams of food processing industry, including Okara (Click HERE for link) and brewer's spent grain (Click HERE for link). NTU FST has further developed green extraction technology to extract cellulose from the remaining solid residues after fermentation, and developed biodegradable packaging materials (Click HERE for link). Similar green processing technology has been developed by NTU FST to convert waste cooking oil into natural carotenoids which are high value food additives (The Straits Times, 11 June 2015, page B2). To further reduce chemical substances in processed food products with extended shelf life, NTU FST has recently developed innovation to sustainably produce natural food preservatives (Click HERE for link).
The technology innovations developed by NTU FST have contributed to Food Circular Economy scenario, in which all raw materials for food processing industry would be fully utilised thus showcasing the feasibility of Zero Waste Food Processing.
NTU FST technology innovations have also been featured internationally, including in IFTNEXT Newsletter. IFT (Institute of Food Technologists) is an international, non-profit scientific society of professionals engaged in food science, food technology, and related areas in academia, government and industry. It has more than 17,000 members from more than 95 countries. IFTNEXT Newsletter published every Tuesday explores what are, arguably, the next big things in the science of food (IFT Link). Our featured innovations include zero waste food processing (Click HERE for link) as well as natural food preservatives (Click HERE for link).
NTU FST has now been engaged by food industry for commercialisation of their innovations, either through joint laboratory, with either industry's direct investment or jointly with government co-funding support. One such engagement is the opening of the F&N-NTU F&B Innovations Lab in January 2019 by Singapore Minister for Education Mr. Ong Ye Kung. It is F&N's first long-term joint research partnership with an academic institution in their 135 years of history.
NTU FST has also been identified as technology partner in Food Innovate, a new initiative by Enterprise Singapore. NTU FST has also been a key driver in a national food hub on food safety and innovations.
NTU FST has been actively engaged in community outreach, with regular media appearances (newspapers and television) to showcase our innovations as well as explaining food matters to the general public. In addition, NTU FST technology innovations have been used to organise workshops for students and food industry.
Taken together, NTU FST has evolved from an education programme in FST into a vibrant platform offering education training, research on food technology innovations, government collaboration, food industry engagement and community outreach.
R&D in Nutrition, Sustainability to Drive Disruption in Food Industry (23 April 2019)
Singapore's Farming Revival: 'Tech is the Only Way to Go' (27 February 2019)
(CLICK HERE FOR LINK)
Turning Food Waste Into Something Useful (8 January 2019)
NTU Scientists Turn Durian Seeds Into Natural Food Stabiliser and Probiotics
(18 January 2019)
NTU Scientists Reuse Beer-Brewing By-Product to Grow Yeast to Make More Beer
(31 August 2017)
NTU Team Develops Natural Preservative that can Keep Food Fresh A Lot Longer
(18 August 2018)
Turning Soya Bean Waste into Packaging (10 March 2017)
Turning Soya Bean Waste into a Medium for Yeast to Grown On (22 April 2016)
NTU Scientists use Yeast to Take Waste Out of Waste Oil (11 June 2015)