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JTC Food Hub @ Senoko to rent out equipment, shared facilities for small-batch production

FOOD manufacturers looking to test new products in small batches will soon be able to do so without the expense of buying processing equipment that can cost millions of dollars.

By the end of next year, equipment like spray dryers and microwave-assisted thermal sterilisers will be available on a pay-per-use basis at the JTC Food Hub @ Senoko - a food factory facility with 50 units for lease which was officially launched on Tuesday.

Speaking at the event, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat said manufacturers need to continue to innovate and improve productivity to capture new markets and meet changing consumer tastes.

However, companies - especially small and medium sized enterprises - may not have the scale, or in-house capabilities to test their new ideas.

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"Equipment is expensive, and outsourcing to a contract manufacturer requires a larger minimum order size than what they need," said Mr Chee. This adds to their cost of experimentation and a low commercialisation rate.

The new facility in Woodlands - the first space of its kind in Singapore - will have equipment ranging from standard items like spray dryers, to microwave assisted thermal sterilisers, which can cost more than S$1 million.

On Tuesday, JTC, Enterprise Singapore and the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) signed a memorandum of understanding for setting up the new 1,130 sqm facility.

Besides food processing gear, the JTC hub also has other shared spaces such as an integrated cold room and warehouse which can also be rented. It also offers distribution services. The hub will host workplace training courses and seminars too.

SIT is operating the new small batch production facility and its vice-president (industry and community) Ivan Lee said: "The facility will serve as a conduit to translate technology know-how into new and better products and processes that can ultimately accelerate the growth of the Singapore food industry and contribute to developing Singapore into Asia's leading food and nutrition hub."

JTC will also be studying food waste recycling programmes.

Mr Chee also highlighted the importance of food manufacturing, saying it helps to diversify Singapore's food sources.

The industry also added S$4.3 billion to Singapore's gross domestic product last year - a 14 per cent rise from 2016.

THE STRAITS TIMES