IN FOCUS: No roaming cattle but with high-tech labs, could Singapore be a 'meat' exporter?


By Rachel Phua, CNA

13 Feb 2021


SINGAPORE: As a tiny city-state with a population density that ranks third in the world, Singapore isn't particularly suited for conventional agriculture and free-roaming livestock.


But Gaia Foods needs no farm to feed a world hungry for some sinewy grub. All it needs is a laboratory, faith from investors and a couple more technological breakthroughs.


The lab-grown meat developer was founded by Mr Vinayaka Srinivas and Mr Thanh Hung Nguyen, researchers who met at Duke-NUS Medical School in December 2019.


The pair is trying to create structured beef and pork products - think beef steaks and pork chops - by growing animal cells on scaffolds, or thin plant-based surfaces, so that it mimics the texture of meat cuts as opposed to minced meat.


“We think we can produce meat in a cleaner, green and animal-friendly manner that people can consume without all the guilt,” said Mr Srinivas, highlighting the benefits his industry peers have touted since the first lab-grown hamburger was unveiled in 2013.


Mr Srinivas said they want to launch their first product in three-and-a-half years at S$15 to S$20 a kilogramme - which is close to prices of traditional meat today - at restaurants. The plan is to go mass market in five years.


Right now, the cost of production is at an exorbitant S$6,000 per kilogramme, largely owing to the expensive animal serum and pharma-grade nutrients used to grow and feed the animal cells respectively.


But Mr Srinivas and his partner are confident they can bring the price down. Experiments are ongoing to develop a similar serum from plants and yeast, as well as cell feed from nutrients extracted from plants.


Gaia Foods...




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