On Tuesday, 27 June , ~50 industry professionals from the agrifood, investment, startup and policy space gathered at the Rabobank Singapore office in Singapore to explore the impact of technological, regulatory, and consumer trends and challenges on the research, development and adoption of cellular agriculture in Asia Pacific.

This event is part of a series of monthly learning and networking sessions run by WOMAG Asia – a volunteer-run organisation formed in 2016 to accelerate the development of women leaders in the food and agribusiness industry in Southeast Asia by providing opportunities for networking, knowledge-building, and professional development.

Why does this event matter?

In the last decade – cellular agriculture has undertaken a gradual transition from R&D to global commercialisation. In June 2023, the USDA granted commercial licenses to two cellular agriculture companies, making the US the second country in the world to approve the commercial sale of cultivated meat after Singapore (2021).

Policymakers worldwide signal their support and commitment for the cultivated meat and seafood industry to meet their national policy goals of economic growth, mitigation of the climate crisis, and as a food security asset. Yet, like all other industries, a myriad of myths and challenges clouds the pathway towards market approval and sales.

The purpose of this event is to explore the impact of technological, regulatory, and consumer trends and challenges on the research, development and adoption of cellular agriculture in Asia Pacific.

What insights were shared?
Trevor Ireson (CEO, Rabobank Singapore) delivered the opening remarks for the session, drawing on lessons learned from Rabobanks’ 125 year history, presence in 37 countries, and position as a leader in food and agriculture financing (giving out EUR 113.3b loans to the agrifood sector). Trevor urged the financial community to come together to learn more about sustainable and innovative food technologies so we can set a roadmap on how to fund and scale these ventures.

Following Trevor’s opening remarks, the event went on to host a fireside chat – titled “Inside Scoop: Navigating the Cellular Agriculture Landscape in APAC” – featuring two speakers from the cellular agriculture space: Peter Yu, Program Director of APAC Society for Cellular Agriculture, and Mandy Hon, Co-Founder & Managing Director of ImpacFat. The session was moderated by Dr. Dalal AlGhawas, Events Lead at WOMAG Asia and Founder of SWAPAC.

Challenges in the industry were discussed, with special focus on scalability cost and why the general public is unable to access cultivated meat in Singapore. Mandy shared that hybrid blended products are going to be the mainstream and that ImpacFat seafood fats focused on taste, texture and nutrition are partnering with plant based meat players to improve and level up alternative protein products. Peter shared that across APAC we are expected to see cultivated meat gain traction towards commercial sale in places such as Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and Australia, due to activity in the regulatory and scalability advancements.

In APAC there are a handful of mature cultivated meat companies, and some of them have had their fair share of challenges, from governance and hiring strategies especially for pre-revenue companies. Mandy shared that pre-revenue cellular agriculture startups expect pivots as this is a nascent industry and it will take time to develop affordable and scalable manufacturing – companies such as Turtletree pivoted from cultivated milk to precision fermentation dairy, and Avant meats pivoted to cultivated collagen before launching cultivated fish maw and seafood. Peter shared that we must give credit to companies like Shiok Meats that have paved the way for cellular agriculture in APAC and Southeast Asia, despite their challenges they will ride the storm and continue to be a part of this ecosystem.

Both Peter and Mandy urged for better coherence across all stakeholders in this industry from startups, corporates, government agencies, regulatory authorities and investors. This is to ensure the APAC cellular agriculture industry can move forward and adapt to rapidly changing global policies and commercialisation strategies. APAC can add value towards the adaptation of inclusive religious and cultural guidelines for cellular agriculture for a diverse Asian population, seeking Halal and Buddhist certification guidelines.

About the Speakers:

Trevor Ireson has over 30 years of solid banking experience spanning across various financial institutions in London, Rotterdam, Singapore and Hong Kong. He is currently Rabobank Singapore’s Chief Executive Officer since January 2023 and is responsible for the overall management of Rabobank’s office in Singapore as well as the wider South Asian and South East Asian franchise. Before joining Rabobank, Trevor worked for almost 25 years with BNP, Fortis and ABN-AMRO where he was among others the Global Head Credit & Collateral Management with Fortis in the Netherlands and the Director for Risk Management Commodities with ABN-AMRO Bank (formerly Fortis Bank Nederland) primarily responsible for the Netherlands commodities portfolio

Peter Yu is the Program Director at the APAC Society for Cellular Agriculture – an association and coalition of 10+ cultivated meat and seafood companies across the APAC region. Through the society, Peter works as a drive-force to both promote the industry as well as to encourage the establishment of efficient and transparent regulations and policies. Peter is actively engaging towards creating a harmonized cultivated food industry, and has experience in driving various industry moving projects across the globe. Peter is the Co-chair of the Enterprise Singapore Pro-tem committee for setting Novel food standards, and has been a convener for the first MoU regarding regional Nomenclature alignment in Asia. Moreover, Peter was appointed as a technical expert to FAO/WHO on safety guidelines for the industry. Peter holds dual Masters’ degrees (MBA + Bioengineering) and is pursuing a third in Law.

Mandy Hon is the Managing Director and Co-Founder of ImpacFat. Prior to this, she was an entrepreneur and ex-director of F&B companies internationally (Singapore, Malaysia, China) for the past 10 years. She is also currently a WCE world certified sensory judge for world coffee championships, and an Associate Lecturer in Republic Polytechnic, Singapore.

Dr. Dalal AlGhawas is the Founder of SWAPAC, an agrifood consultancy focused on food security in the GCC and Asia Pacific. Combining research, commercialization, capital and partnership to support technology transfer. Technical specialization in food safety, biotechnology, diagnostics, clinical research and public health. Dalal established the first food technology accelerator in Hong Kong and the World’s first Alternative Protein accelerator and has worked with >100 global technology startups. Dalal is an international thought leader in the food technology space 100+ conferences, TV, podcasts, roundtables, industry reports, start-up competitions. Kuwaiti citizen and Hong Kong Permanent Resident, well connected in APAC and GCC. Doctor of Philosophy (Food Science and Food Biotechnology) from leading Asian University of Hong Kong with publications in top tier peer reviewed journals, startup manuals and industry reports.

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