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A winning partnership
Let your business ideas take shape with the right technology solution from a reliable partner. IPI Singapore works with enterprises to connect them with local and international technology providers, allowing them to unlock more opportunities to stay ahead. Through crowdsourcing, co-creation and open innovation, connections facilitated by IPI lead to win-win partnerships and commercialisation outcomes.
If you crave chilli crab, but prefer not to wait for a table and the dish to be cooked at a restaurant, there is a vending machine at The Punggol Settlement that you can turn to. It dispenses the local delight — piping hot and ready to eat — prepared by restaurant chain House of Seafood.
During the preparation process, the crabs are blast-frozen once cooked, then rapidly cooled to minus 50 deg C to preserve freshness before being vacuum-packed into plastic boxes.
While some customers may worry about the texture and taste of the vacuum-sealed meal, others are more concerned with how safe the meals are for consumption.
Local start-up Voyager Venture, which focuses on providing innovative technologies in food safety and cold chain management, has been working with House of Seafood to strengthen the cold chain of its ready-to-eat meals.
The cold chain refers to the uninterrupted transport and storage of perishable goods under temperature-controlled conditions from production sites to storage and finally, distribution facilities. This is important, especially in Asia’s warmer climates, to ensure food safety and freshness.
If perishable items such as meat, dairy products and ready-to-eat meals are not kept below a certain temperature, it can lead to the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms. Thus, the consumption of these products will result in food poisoning.
“Cooked food can be potentially hazardous for consumption, especially if it’s not transported within the correct temperature range,” says Voyager Venture spokesman Ms Ong Hui Min.
For Singapore food companies seeking to export their products, having a secure cold chain is crucial — a broken cold chain reduces food product quality and leads to missed revenue opportunities, inventory losses, and in the long term, lower brand equity.
Smart food labels
“Cold chain integrity is a neglected area and very difficult to enforce,” says Ms Ong.
Monitoring every step of the chain, for example, while loading chilled food onto trucks or offloading them at multiple drop-off points, is costly and labour-intensive. And there is always a possibility that the cold chain will break.
To seek a solution for this problem, Voyager Venture approached IPI to look for a suitable partner with the technological knowledge.
“IPI is well-connected with innovators around the world. With their support, we were able to find the right technology partner to bring a solution for adoption in the Asia Pacific region,” explains Ms Ong.
At premier technology-industry brokerage event TechInnovation in 2015, IPI linked up Voyager Venture with Swedish company Tempix, which had developed a customisable smart food label to detect fluctuations in temperatures outside a specified range.
The smart label contains an activator liquid that changes when exposed to higher temperatures. So when the black bar on the label’s indicator disappears, it means the product is no longer safe to consume.
Above: The temperature indicator will reveal whether a particular product has been handled at too high temperatures during its journey from the producer to the final customer.
By December that year, both companies had forged a partnership that is ongoing. Since then, there have been ongoing discussions to strengthen Tempix’s operational presence in Singapore, once the demand for the smart label solution takes off.
House of Seafood, one of the early adopters of the Tempix solution, has given its stamp of approval on the positive results.
“The smart label is currently found on all ready-to-eat crab packages from the House of Seafood in Singapore and is now an integral part of our company’s strategy to grow our exports in the region,” says its chief executive officer Francis Ng.
Aside from food products, such smart labels may soon be applied to a range of other temperature-sensitive items. They include wines and spirits, medicines and vaccines, biological samples, as well as flower and vegetable seed kits in Malaysia, Thailand, India and Australia.
"With the evolving changes in the industry and increasing demand for ready-to-eat products, there could be higher incidences of food poisoning if the cold chain is not managed properly. With our smart labels, food companies will be able to ensure the best quality and consistency of their products," says Ms Ong.
TechInnovation is the premier technology-industry brokerage event that enables enterprises to DISCOVER innovative technologies, CONNECT with new partners and COLLABORATE to bring new ideas and opportunities to market in the spirit of Open Innovation.
Organised by IPI Singapore, it brings together international technology providers and enterprises to explore technology commercialisation and initiate business collaborations. IPI promotes open innovation and works with enterprises to source for technologies locally or from abroad; and facilitate partnerships to bring new and innovative products and services to the market.
Date: 19 and 20 September 2017
Time: 8.30am to 6pm
Venue: Marina Bay Sands, Level 1 (Halls A and B)
Free registration at www.techinnovation.com.sg