Asia BioBusiness to Represent Digital Content Analysis Technology (D-CAT) in Asia

Press Release

July  21st, 2020

Asia BioBusiness Pte. Ltd. is pleased to announce that they have been appointed to represent Digital Content Analysis Technology Limited (D-CAT, of Glasgow, Scotland in Asia. Asia BioBusiness will provide business development services for D-CAT and manage projects on D-CAT’s behalf.

D-CAT provides insights from data to a worldwide market using its proprietary software for analytics, algorithms and AI.  It has successfully implemented solutions in sectors such as agriculture, environment, forestry, energy utilities, disaster management, infrastructure optimization and insurance.  Its software delivers data intelligence that makes a difference by complementing and extending the client’s existing capability.

D-CAT originated its expertise in the defense and security industries to analyse imagery and unlock insights from it using its innovative Fusion Platform®. It has experience analyzing data from multiple sources: electro-optic sensors, multispectral and hyperspectral imagers, fused systems, active sensors such as Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), burst illumination laser, Millimeter Wave Sensors and many types of radar. D-CAT has also worked extensively with satellite data captured using a range of sensors and developed applications with IoT technology.

Dr Andrew Powell, CEO of Asia BioBusiness: “This is an exciting development for Asia BioBusiness. D-CAT brings in-depth knowledge gained from years of experience in the defense and security industry to a wide range of applications. Building on its existing operations in Adelaide, Australia, we are looking forward to support D-CAT’s development in the region, across its whole portfolio, but we are especially excited to apply the company’s expertise in driving the digitization of agriculture in the region. D-CAT is an excellent example of the type of company that is now impacting agricultural development though a convergence of diverse technologies.”

About Asia BioBusiness

Singapore company Asia Biobusiness Pte. Ltd. was founded in 2005 by Dr Andrew Powell and Professor Paul Teng. Asia BioBusiness works in the broad life science arena but with a special focus on agriculture and food. It assists in all the processes for taking a product from ideation to the market. What differentiates ABB from others is their long-term regional presence, global networks, building on strong relationships with key players in both private and public sectors. Clients include Bayer, Syngenta, Tate and Lyle, Dupont Biosciences and Nutrition, CropLife Asia and Australia, APEC, UNEP, FAO, various NGOs and multiple governments around the world.

Contact: Asia BioBusiness Pte. Ltd.

Dr Andrew Powell

Email: [email protected]

Tel: +65 97615596

Centre of Excellence for Smallholder Farmers

Asia BioBusiness and partner Bayer launched discussions Tuesday 19th with interested parties on our multi-stakeholder Centre of Excellence for Smallholder Farmers in Singapore. Great diverse group made up local, regional and global companies, industry organisations, higher education institutions, development agencies, and NGOs working in agriculture, energy, sustainable development etc. Stay tuned!

Biotech Crops Continue to Help Meet the Challenges of Increased Population and Climate Change


Biotech Crops Continue to Help Meet the Challenges of Increased Population and Climate Change

Seventy Countries Adopted Biotech Crops to Provide Solutions to Hunger, Malnutrition, and Climate Change

A total of 70 countries adopted biotech crops through cultivation and importation in 2018, the 23rdyear of continuous biotech crop adoption, according to the Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops in 2018(ISAAA Brief 54) released by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) today. Twenty-six countries (21 developing and 5 industrialized countries) planted 191.7 million hectares of biotech crops, which added 1.9 million hectares to the record of plantings in 2017. The continuous adoption of biotech crops by farmers worldwide indicate that biotech crops continue to help meet global challenges of hunger, malnutrition, and climate change.

In 2018, it was reported in the United Nation’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World that hunger is growing year after year for three consecutive years, and at the levels equivalent to the records a decade ago. Furthermore, the 2017 Global Report on Food Crises revealed that hunger and malnutrition continue to rise, with around 108 million individuals in 48 countries at risk or in severe food insecurity. Biotech crops, developed with improved traits such as increased yield, more resistance to pests, improved nutrition, among others, are undeniably necessary to address these global challenges affecting the lives so many families globally.

“GM technology has contributed to all facets of food security. By increasing yields and reducing losses, it contributed to food availability. By enabling farmers to improve their processes and join the modern supply chain, it improved physical access to food. Through raising farmer and rural incomes, it improved economic access to food. Through rigorous standards of food safety and hygiene programs, it contributed to better food utilization,” said Dr. Paul S. Teng, ISAAA Chair of the Board. “While agricultural biotechnology is not the only key in enhancing global food security, it is an important scientific tool in the multi-disciplinary toolkit.”

Biotech crop plantings have increased ~113-fold since 1996, with an accumulated area of 2.5 billion hectares, showing that biotechnology is the fastest adopted crop technology in the world. In countries with long years of high adoption, particularly the USA, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, and India, adoption rates of major crops are at levels close to 100%, indicating that farmers favor this crop technology over the conventional varieties.  More farmers’ and consumers’ needs, more diverse biotech crops with various traits became available in the market in 2018. These biotech crops include potatoes with non-bruising, non-browning, reduced acrylamide and late blight resistant traits; insect resistant and drought tolerant sugarcane; non-browning apples; and high oleic acid canola and safflower.

The ISAAA report also highlighted the following key findings:

  • The top 5 countries with the largest area of biotech crops planted (USA, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, and India) collectively occupied 91% of the global biotech crop area.
  • Biotech soybeans reached the highest adoption worldwide, covering 50% of the global biotech crop area.
  • The area of biotech crops with stacked traits continued to increase and occupied 42% of the global biotech area.
  • Farmers in 10 Latin American countries planted 79.4 million hectares of biotech crops.
  • Nine countries in Asia and the Pacific planted 19.13 million hectares of biotech crops.
  • In Asia, Indonesia planted for the first time a drought tolerant sugarcane developed through a public (University of Jember) and private (Ajinomoto Ltd.) partnership.
  • The Kingdom of eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) joined South Africa and Sudan in planting biotech crops in Africa, with the introduction of IR cotton. Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya and Malawi granted approvals for planting IR cotton opening Africa to biotech crop adoption.
  • In Europe, Spain and Portugal continued to adopt biotech maize to control European corn borer.
  • More area planted to biotech crops for farmer and consumer needs include potatoes with non-bruising, non-browning, reduced acrylamide and late blight resistant traits; non-browning apples; insect resistant eggplant; and low lignin alfalfa, among others
  • New crops and trait combinations in farmer fields include insect resistant and drought tolerant sugarcane; high oleic acid canola and safflower
  • Various food, feed and processing approvals for Golden Rice, Bt rice, herbicide tolerant cotton, low gossypol cotton, among others
  • Cultivation approvals for planting in 2019 include new generation herbicide tolerant cotton and soybean, low gossypol cotton, RR and low lignin alfalfa, omega-3 canola, and IR cowpea, among others.

With the continuously increasing adoption of biotech crops worldwide, the farmers are at the forefront of reaping numerous benefits. “We were fed up with weeding and spraying pesticides to control bollworms and weeds. When the technology was introduced, we rapidly picked it up,” said Frans Mallela, a farmer from Limpopo Province, South Africa. Le Thanh Hai, one of the early adopters of biotech maize in Vinh Phuc Province, Vietnam, said that biotech maize has helped revive maize farming in their province and stressed that many farmers now grow biotech maize because of its benefits. Rosalie Ellasus, a farmer from Pangasinan, Philippines, said that she adopted Bt maize because she gained more yield with less production cost, compared to conventional maize varieties. “There was not even a trace of pests considering that we did not apply insecticide. Furthermore, we no longer need to visit our maize field every day and this gives us peace of mind,” Ellasus added.

ISAAA is a not-for-profit international organization that shares the benefits of crop biotechnology to various stakeholders, particularly resource-poor farmers in developing countries, through knowledge sharing initiatives and the transfer and delivery of proprietary biotechnology applications. ISAAA’s global knowledge sharing network and partnerships in the research and development continuum, provide a powerful combination of science-based information and appropriate technology to those who need to make informed decisions about their acceptance and use. ISAAA releases the annual global biotech crop adoption report and provides information on approved GM crop events through the GM Approval Database.

Sustainability: Beware of Greenwashing

This post first appeared in 2017 as a commentary from the Rajaratnam School of International Studies

Sustainability: Beware of Greenwashing

By Paul Teng, Chairman, Asia BioBusiness Pte. Ltd.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were endorsed by the global community through the UN in late 2015. Sustainability reporting has become a business, and there is evidence of some degree of “Greenwashing”. Walking the talk is more important and convincing of commitment than elaborate reports with quantitative metrics.


THE SUSTAINABLE Development Goals (SDGs) have passed their one-year mark since their adoption in 2015 by the United Nations. The 17 SDGs and 169 targets provide a good framework for interested groups to take action and promote sustainability. But what is sustainability? Most groups promote sustainability through policies and action focused around three “pillars”: environmental (ecological), economic, and social.

While there is no universal standard for what constitutes “sustainability”, it is generally accepted that sustainable policies and action are beneficial to the environmental, support economic growth and have equal benefits for all sectors of society. Taken together, they are also assumed to protect the needs of future generations while taking into account current societal needs such as clean, safe food produced with minimal effect on the environment, and use of farming practices which rejuvenate the soil. This is why the UN has adopted it as a universal project critical for the future of humanity.

Sustainability as Serious Business

These three pillars are relevant to many situations. But there has been variation in the manner and depth in which the private and public sectors have implemented the SDGs and included the “sustainability” concept into their business or work. There is a noticeable difference between the way in which groups declare the sustainability goals and report on them, and the integration of these into the company’s culture, values and processes.

Many in the private sector have recognised that “sustainability is good for business”. This has partly been in response to consumer demands for products made using sustainable practices. Many companies and public organisations have developed practices which can be assessed for their contribution to sustainability. Some have even provided ways to assess their compliance with their sustainability targets, often backing these up with scientific and social meaning.

A new industry has developed in recent years to help companies and governments become more sustainable in their practices and in their product types, as well as articulate their sustainability goals. These have contributed to faster adoption of the concept. Some multi-national companies and international organisations have incorporated sustainability into their vision, mission, strategic plans and operations.

However, high level pledges are only a good start but need to filter downwards throughout the entire organisation. It is apparent that tensions still exist between the different parts of organisations respectively responsible for the immediate business “bottom line” versus the more strategic “sustainability” approach.

In Singapore, various examples can be found of organisations which duly comply with required sustainability reporting, those which incorporate sustainability practices in their business and culture, and those which actively advocate sustainability even beyond immediate business concerns. The Singapore Exchange, SGX, has implemented sustainability reporting, and many larger companies have positions for “sustainability directors”.

Showing compliance with sustainability and contribution to achieving the SDGs is an important step towards incorporating sustainability into an organisation. Recently, the Singapore-based agrifood company OLAM took the commendable lead to co-start the Global AgriBusiness Alliance and in doing so, put Singapore on the map as both thought and action leader to take the SDGs seriously.

Aspirations versus Reality: Greenwashing

Early attempts at incorporating sustainability and the SDGs have been through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. Many organisations have however matured in their approach and are showing more meaningful practices. However, it has also become obvious that only those with deep pockets have been able to do so. There is also evidence that some are becoming quite adept at reporting their sustainability compliance.

This phenomenon has been termed “Greenwashing”, and is the practice of making a misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product, service, technology

or company practice. Greenwashing can make a company appear to be more environmentally friendly than it really is, whereas in reality, the effects are more cosmetic than real.

A professor of sustainability at the well-known IMD Business School in Lausanne, Switzerland, Francisco Szekeley, has expanded on the above in his forthcoming book, “Beyond the Triple Bottom Line”. The Triple Bottom Line (TBL) approach uses the three pillars (environmental, economic and social) to show their sustainability performance. Each pillar is justified on the basis of key performance indicators defined by the organisation. But he has posed the question – “Can this methodology determine sustainability performance?” and noted that “seemingly sustainable companies continue to conceal business-as-usual practices”.

Professor Szekeley has further advocated reducing dependence on the TBL approach and to assess sustainability in a more holistic way. This would take into account an organisation’s relationships with its current stakeholders, such as a company’s employees, its clients, the consuming public and its suppliers. He further proposes that the needs of silent and future stakeholders, as represented by the environment and future generations, should be taken into account as part of this holistic way.

A critical question that follows is: should the holistic sustainability performance of a firm also be measured internally?

More than Just CSR

Apart from meeting the external demands to demonstrate sustainability, and internal business operations which make use of sustainability concepts, a third aspect is the “socialisation” of sustainability values into an organisation’s culture through its employees. Examples of such cultural values being practised by an organisation’s employees are zero food waste, energy saving habits, and careful use of water. But many of these values-based internal actions are not commonly included in sustainability reporting. And yet for the longer term, these have more meaning to build a society which cares for future generations.

Ultimately, sustainability needs to be part of the core business of organisations and not be viewed as expedient attitudes to please clients or consumers. This means, for large companies, going beyond CSR projects. For SMEs, three prevailing challenges to implement sustainability goals that have been noted are the apparent lack of government support, the lack of uptake by major importing countries, and the costs of training suppliers to adopt sustainable practices.

For F&B enterprises, there also seems a gap between consumers’ demands for sustainably-produced food, and producers’ ability to meet the requirements for sustainable production methods. Some producers have adopted certification schemes provided by internationally-recognised groups. In the case of the farming community, Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) are local examples of adopting accepted sustainability practices. This gap needs both public and private sector interventions if the bulk of the enterprises in most countries — the SMEs and small producers – are to be included in the move towards a more sustainable society.

Ultimately, institutional and governance aspects are also important because institutions in a modern society distinguish caring from uncaring societies. Companies, governments, public sector entities, civil society groups all need to demonstrate they have adopted the sustainability mantra and paradigm.


Enabling a successful AgriFood Innovation Park in Singapore:  What should it focus on?

Enabling a successful AgriFood Innovation Park in Singapore:  What should it focus on?

By Paul Teng, Andrew Powell and Rob Hulme


The success in growing an agrifood sector is considerably improved when supported by one or more agrifood innovation parks (AFIPs) judging from experience in countries such as Taiwan and The Netherlands.

Singapore has announced that it intends to develop a new 18ha Agri-Food Innovation Park in Sungei Kadut, which will be ready in phases from the second quarter of 2021.Announcing this on 4 March 2019, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon said the park, which is the size of about 33 football fields, will bring together high-tech farming and research and development activities, including indoor plant factories, insect farms and animal feed production facilities.

“We are working with local and overseas industry players to develop this first phase of the park, which will be ready from the second quarter of 2021 with potential for future expansion,” said Dr Koh, who spoke on the need to strengthen infrastructure support to encourage innovation in the sector. Dr Koh said the vision is for Singapore to be a leader in urban agriculture and aquaculture technology, with a food production model that can be exported to the region. More likely, any new urban food production model developed by Singapore can contribute to increasing efficiency and productivity rather than replacing existing systems.

Close to home, the Ping Tung Agricultural Biotechnology Park in southern Taiwan exemplifies the type of park in which a mix of R&D, educational and incubation entities, together with agrifood enterprises, have helped put teeth behind Taiwan’s policy of promoting exports Other best in class examples include the Rotterdam Food Cluster ( the Agro-Food Cluster in West Flanders region of Belgium the Waikato Innovation Park in New Zealand ( These demonstrate the importance of combining intensive production with investment in research and development, integrated processing and packaging, supply chain and logistics, waste management and capability development.

Establishment of an AFIP in Singapore can make contributions

To support continued development of the agrifood industry in Singapore;

  • To create new export opportunities;
  • To accelerate disruption, innovation and entrepreneurship in new areas of future food systems; and
  • To “connect the dots” among the many agrifood players stretching across entire supply chain areas such as research, technology development, production, processing, marketing, etc.

all of which will likely contribute to improved food security for Singapore.

What enterprises should the AFIP aim to support?

Singapore to date has had limited experience with the conventional types of agriculture being practiced by the majority of food producing countries in Asia, given the limitations of land and growing systems here.  It’s experience and expertise in urban farming (i.e. vertical, indoor, community and rooftop systems) are growing quickly, and Singapore is regarded as one of the world leaders in the related competence around water (recycling and filtration). In the area of high tech agriculture and food processing, Singapore has accelerated development in recent years, most notably with recent announcements encouraging investment (e.g. Seeds Capital and the “30×30” strategy)

Singapore’s foremost  experience has been in the growing of three key food items targeted previously to make up 10% of its self-production, i.e. leafy vegetables, eggs and fish. More recently, several enterprises have shown good progress in technology-enabled farming, such as in the indoor farms for vegetables, large scale commercial fish farms and technology-enabled egg farms. It is also making progress in research and development of farming systems using digital and biological technology.

What other enterprises can Singapore venture into which leverage on its comparative advantage of available financing, stable environments and available human resources? One is the relatively new product categories of plant-based meat alternatives, cell-based meats and hybrid proteins, often termed “clean” or “cellular” meat. This innovative development in protein production is predominantly driven by concerns around the sustainability of current meat production systems, both in terms of animal ethics and environmental impact. Aside from development of the technology and scaling of production systems, however, key for success will include the extent that these products can be readily mainstreamed into the food supply chain and be accepted by consumers.

Some other noteworthy  areas for investment in the AFIP that would add to its leadership role could be

  • Internet-of-Things (IOT) systems for new food systems that incorporate latest sensing and predictive algorithms to optimize production efficiency;
  • R&D to develop new technologies for animal, fish and plant breeds using modern genomics;
  • Diagnostics, detection and disease prevention systems in animals, fish and crops;
  • Protection of food identity to assure integrity of the food delivery system;
  • Novel (sustainable) food packaging material and systems;
  • Novel grow-out systems for intensive urban animal, fish and vegetable farming (Land-based Recirculating Aquaculture Systems  (RAS), feed/fertilization; waste disposal; space efficient systems, etc.);
  • Shared facilities for collaborative research initiatives; and
  • Waste valorization / repurposing produce waste under aseptic conditions.

Singapore’s leverage points are its relatively stable work environment supported by its geographic position in SE Asia, good infrastructure, presence of world class research centres, governance and access to capital markets.

What could an AFIP focus on stimulating or improving?

Experience from other countries has shown that agri-technology parks can help if there are other supportive activities, such as

  • Articulation at highest levels of government, of support to develop an Agrifood sector, backed up by significant funding into targeted areas to create impact (e.g. Accelerators, R&D, Investment);
  • Encouraging private financing of agtech and development of new FINTECH systems;
  • Assistance to develop and penetrate markets overseas based on products not just from the AFIP but the rest of the country;
  • Close alliances amongst all relevant agrifood ecosystem stakeholders including producers, corporates (e.g. Bayer, Nestle), Peak Bodies (e.g. Food Industry Asia, CropLife Asia), NGO’s (e.g. GrowAsia), Startups, Accelerators, Investors and Government agencies
  • Longer term human resource development in appropriate knowhow and knowledge areas through HEIs and TVET institutes;
  • Supply Chain Infrastructure (i.e. cold train, transport and logistics) and traceability systems;
  • Clear and consistent branding for “Singapore Fresh” that identifies locally produced food that consumers can support;
  • Seeding “centres of excellence” in selected areas;
  • Promoting a culture of I&E using an ecosystems approach; and
  • Strong international linkages/ collaboration with other research and academic centres.

While the current focus of indoor growing systems is predominantly on leafy green vegetables, the majority of these varieties are adapted with variable success from field varieties. Cost-effective advanced breeding technologies (e.g. gene editing such as CRISPR-CAS 9) will enable the faster development of fit-for-purpose varieties that have specific (heavy fruiting, dwarf and short growing cycle) traits more suited to indoor growing systems. The return on capital for infrastructure development of indoor farming systems can be improved significantly through targeting of high value crops grown under aseptic conditions, including functional microgreens, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and others such as truffle, mushrooms, vanilla bean and saffron. Separately, advances in lighting and energy use, automation and sensor systems will continue to drive down the cost of operations.

Aquaculture is another area of opportunity. The AFIP could encourage development of land-based RAS production systems based on advanced water filtration, sustainable feeding systems and adapted species most suited to this development. Singapore could produce fish certified and traced throughout its production and grow these in external farms under a  “Singapore Certified” label which addresses the consumer’s desire for food safety assurance.  Furthermore, mid-stream technologies which could support certification could be developed within the AFIP.

Accelerating impact with the AFIP

For the AFIP to be successful requires it to have focus and relevance to Singapore’s agrifood industry, and additionally, be able to capitalize on the food and farming needs of the region. This can best be achieved by forming a not-for-profit business entity that can serve to coordinate, catalyse and guide efforts to achieve synergies across the agrifood sector.  In the Netherlands Food Valley, this role is played by the Food Valley Organisation (FVO).  We are proposing that there is a need to form an AFIP Organization. Built from public and private sector support, this independently operating entity could “connect the dots” among the many agrifood sector players and accelerate progress in delivering tangible outcomes.  The Ping Tung Agricultural Biotechnology Park has an apex entity providing this kind of impetus.

The current agrifood tech ecosystem in Singapore is being incubated by a limited number of organisations who host ag and food related start-ups and corporates, run meetups and facilitate interchange of technologies and capabilities, e.g. Commonwealth Capital’s “The Common Good” in Jurong.

Singapore is also having an increasing number of key industry-related conferences such as Rethink Agrifood Innovation Week  (,  Indoor Agcon Asia (, and Techinnovation (

Regular networking platforms such as Hypha (, BioBeers and Sustainable Food Systems (WhatsApp Group) and the LinkedIn group Agri-Food Singapore all play an important role in connecting ag and food industry stakeholders. Building networks with established overseas players in the agrifood space would be one important function of the proposed AFIP Organization.

As the sector continues to develop it would also make sense to develop a conveniently located, fit-for-purpose agrifood tech facility that can host multiple stakeholders, from startups to investors, researchers, corporates and the range of accelerators currently entering Singapore.  The role of this physical facility should not be underestimated in terms of its capability to drive connections, build collaboration platforms and drive output value for Singapore and the region.

For long-term sustainability, the AFIP would have to help in building human resource capacity and capability, and a vibrant culture of innovation and entrepreneurship directed to raising Singapore’s exports of food technology and products .

In the short-term local expertise can be augmented by resources from overseas but it is expected that domestic HR demands will increase, especially in plant agriculture and aquaculture. It is envisaged that specific courses focused on relevant key industry needs (e.g. indoor farming and aquaculture systems, cellular meat) could be developed in conjunction with global education partners.  Opportunities for technology applications in agriculture could be highlighted in current engineering, electronics and computer science programs, consequently stimulating the convergence of technologies to impact agriculture.

Future Forward

One outcome of a successful AFIP would be its role in the contribution of Singapore’s farms to the “30 by 30” target recently articulated, to produce 30% of Singapore’s food needs by 2030. Another is the contribution of its outputs (innovative technologies, etc.) to Singapore’s position as an agrifood innovator, i.e. by increasing the value of food exports and/or agrifood technology exports.

What might the future export sector look like? One of the aims of the AFIP is to enhance export earnings. Certainly, new technology that adds value can drive this but rather than look at just finished food products, the AFIP could actively assist in the development of proprietary technology that would in itself be a valuable product with applications globally. In this way Singapore could position itself as a key agrifood technology hub in Asia, linked to other key hubs (e.g. Melbourne, San Francisco, Tel Aviv, Shanghai and Hyderabad)

Untapped markets exist on our door step in the approximately 350 million small holder farmers in Asia, 100 million in ASEAN. It is noteworthy that the progressive move from subsistence to commercial farming that is developing globally, and especially regionally, represents a market of huge potential for products and services. Opportunities exist in development of agtech (ICT, data analytics, finance, genomics etc.), fintech, waste management, sustainable packaging and in provision of services via mobile platforms.

Paul Teng is Adjunct Senior Fellow (Food Security) in the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, advises agriculture and food entities worldwide, and mentors budding agrifood-entrepreneurs.

Andrew Powellis CEO of Singapore company Asia BioBusiness Pte. Ltd. founded in 2005. The company consults to the private and public sectors in agrifood. He sits on the Advisory Committee for Research and innovation of the Alberta Government (ARIAC).

Rob Hulmeis Head of Asia for Beanstalk Agtech, a challenge-led innovation company aimed at helping agribusiness clients across Asia Pacific implement and scale technology into their operations. He sits on several advisory boards and is passionate about helping reinvent the food system.