California-based alternative dairy startup Perfect Day will soon open its Singapore-based R&D centre this year, in partnership with the government-run Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). Called the A*Star-Perfect Day Joint Lab, the facility will focus on further developing Perfect Day’s precision fermentation technology while the Singapore government seeks to double down its self-sufficiency capabilities and reputation as a food tech innovation hub.
Slated to begin operations in April 2021, the new A*Star-Perfect Day Joint Lab will see Perfect Day’s team collaborate with two A*STAR research institutes – the Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation and the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology – to support the startup’s ongoing R&D and refining of its fermentation processes and protein ingredients. The research partnership agreement was signed on December 21 and witnessed by Singapore’s minister of trade and industry Chan Chun Sing.
Founded in 2014 by Ryan Pandya and Perumal Gandhi, Perfect Day has developed slaughter-free dairy protein through precision fermentation, a biotechnology that allows the company to replicate the molecular proteins produced by cows in labs. By removing cows from the process, Perfect Day’s dairy proteins come at only a fraction of the environmental footprint associated with traditional dairy farming, is cruelty-free and can support local food production – particularly in land-scarce cities like Singapore.
The startup’s fermentation technology has already won the eye of big investors, bagging a record-breaking US$300 million Series C round last year to stand as the most well-funded fermentation protein company in the world so far and a leading name in the fast-growing sector that is quickly establishing itself as a major pillar alongside plant-based and cell-based categories.
Perfect Day’s animal-free proteins can be used to make alternatives for ice cream, cheese and yoghurt, and is already used to make Brave Robot ice cream, a new product launched under Urgent Company, a sustainable food brand launched by the food tech’s founders last summer. In October, Perfect Day made headlines with Disney chairman Robert Iger joining its board, alongside lead investor representatives Aftab Mathur of Singapore sovereign fund Temasek and Patrick Zhang of Li Ka-shing’s Horizons Ventures.
Around 10% of Perfect Day’s workforce will be housed in the new Singapore R&D facility, revealed co-founder Gandhi, who added that plans are underway to grow the team in the city to “have a more significant presence” in the future. Minister of trade and industry Chan further explained that the collaboration will see Perfect Day hire and train local researchers, scientists and engineers with a background in microflora protein innovation, as the government continues to focus on boosting local food production and fending off supply chain shocks and food safety risks.
Singapore has placed great emphasis on its food self-sufficiency goals in recent months, launching a new dedicated S$30 million (US$21 million) fund in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. It builds on top of the city-state’s earlier S$100 billion (US$72 billion) plan to adapt to a climate-stricken future, itself included an S$140 million (US$101) self-sufficiency initiative to meet 30% of its nutritional food needs by 2030.
Already, Singapore has established itself as a food tech innovation hub for sustainable protein solutions, most notably being the first in the world to approve cultured meat made by San Francisco food tech Eat Just before the end of last year. It is also home to several of the most groundbreaking food tech startups, including lab-grown crustacean company Shiok Meats, cell-based dairy and human breast milk firm TurtleTree Labs and jackfruit vegan meat startup Karana.
Lead image courtesy of Perfect Day.