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Close Up How One Food Futurist is Contributing to Solving a Looming Global Food Shortage

How One Food Futurist is Contributing to Solving a Looming Global Food Shortage

Photography: Darren Gabriel Leow
By Karen Tee
November 05, 2020
In a three-part series presented by Franklin Templeton, entrepreneurs from the Gen.T community share their insights on the rising industry trends they believe in. Here, Innovate 360's John Cheng shares how his food incubator is helping Singapore build a more food-secure future

Rapid digitalisation throughout the globe, spurred on by the Covid-19 pandemic, is sparking a race among the most forward-looking businesses to innovate and disrupt the way humans live and create new possibilities for the greater good. At Franklin Templeton, its experts are committed to pursuing investment excellence for their clients by identifying and investing in companies that have the potential to make a difference in the world we live in.

The global investment firm celebrates 30 years in Singapore this year. It has grown its presence here from a research office in 1990 into the Asia headquarters of one of the largest asset management firms in the world. 

An innovative approach to asset management continues to guide the firm’s investment philosophy. It has funds that invest in companies driving innovation and digital transformation in industries such as biotechnology, digital disruption and technology which the three entrepreneurs from our Gen.T community featured here individually represent. Disruptors Jeffrey Lu, Christel Quek and John Cheng, who are at the forefront of their respective fields, share their insights on the rising industry trends they believe in and how they are working to address some of today’s most pressing issues.

In this final part of a three-part series, we speak to Cheng about how his food incubator Innovate 360 is helping to future-proof Singapore with innovation.  

Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Securing Our Future Through Innovation

Eating insects may sound like a challenge mostly seen on reality television shows, but there may be a day in the future when they become a food staple for many.

By 2050, the United Nations predicts that there will be 9.7 billion people in the world, up from the current population of 7.8 billion. Based on current food production rates, there will be insufficient food to feed this staggering amount of people, leading to a pressing need for mankind to invent groundbreaking and sustainable ways to feed the world.

For example, entrepreneurs are experimenting with ways to produce and utilise alternative proteins to replace traditional meat and seafood options. As of 2019, the global alternative protein market is said to be worth US$2.2 billion, as plant-based brands such as Beyond Meats and Impossible Foods enter mainstream restaurant menus.

Cheng, the third-generation family business owner of Cheng Yew Heng Candy Factory, Singapore’s oldest and largest sugar manufacturer, is wasting no time in contributing to securing our planet’s food security and supporting this fast-growing sector. In 2017, he spearheaded the launch of Innovate 360, Singapore’s first food incubator, to guide start-ups to develop and grow their fledgling high-tech food businesses.

With supply chains disrupted due to Covid-19, the need for food innovation has increased the emphasis for alternative protein, urban farming, products with longer shelf life, and health and immunity-boosting foods.

John Cheng

“In land-scarce Singapore, these companies can create the protein we need without the constraints of needing lots of land,” says Cheng, who is a 2020 Gen.T honouree. “These technologies also mitigate the potential for animal-to-human disease transmission as everything is grown in a sterile and controlled environment, reduces our carbon footprint and adds to food diversity.”

Some start-ups the incubator has worked with include Asia Insect Farm Solutions, which use protein-rich crickets to replace flour, so consumers won’t even know they are eating insects. Other sustainability-focused food innovators include Shiok Meats, which produces lab-grown seafood that does not need to be farmed; TurtleTree Labs, which produces milk not from cows but stem cells; and Gaia Foods, which produces cell-based meat.

Cheng says, “With supply chains disrupted due to Covid-19, the need for food innovation has increased the emphasis for alternative protein, urban farming, products with longer shelf life, and health and immunity-boosting foods.”

Invest In Innovative And Disruptive Businesses

Franklin Innovation Fund

The Franklin Innovation Fund invests in companies worldwide leading in innovation and harnessing new technologies and ideas that are emerging in the dynamic global economy. It focuses on areas such as global e-commerce, genetic breakthroughs, intelligent machines, new finance and exponential data.

For more information on Franklin Templeton's investment philosophy and its funds, visit

This advertisement or publication has not been reviewed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
The Fund is a sub-fund of Franklin Templeton Investment Funds ("FTIF"), a Luxembourg registered SICAV.
This document is for information only and does not constitute investment advice or a recommendation and was prepared without regard to the specific objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person who may receive it. Any research and analysis contained in this document has been procured by Franklin Templeton for its own purposes and may be acted upon in that connection and, as such, is provided to you incidentally. Although information has been obtained from sources that Franklin Templeton believes to be reliable, no guarantee can be given as to its accuracy and such information may be incomplete or condensed and may be subject to change at any time without notice. Any views expressed are the views of the fund manager as of the date of this document and do not constitute investment advice. The underlying assumptions and these views are subject to change based on market and other conditions and may differ from other portfolio managers or of the firm as a whole. There is no assurance that any prediction, projection or forecast on the economy, stock market, bond market or the economic trends of the markets will be realized. Franklin Templeton accepts no liability whatsoever for any direct or indirect consequential loss arising from the use of any information, opinion or estimate herein.
The value of investments and the income from them can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount that you invested. Investors may wish to seek advice from a financial adviser before making a commitment to invest in shares of the Fund. In the event an investor chooses not to seek advice from a financial adviser, he/she should consider whether the Fund is suitable for him/her.
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  • Photography Darren Gabriel Leow


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