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(L to R) Irene Cheong, Executive Director (Industry Cluster (HHP) & Venture Creation and Growth), A*STAR Innovation and Enterprise; Sharon Tay, Director of Food Manufacturing & Agritech, Enterprise Singapore; Tan Ding Jie, CTO & Co-Founder, Prefer; and Jake Berber, CEO & Co-Founder, Prefer.


Our inaugural FTIC Food Tech Start-up Challenge wrapped up recently in late June, with Singapore-based start-up, Prefer, emerging as the Grand Prize winner. They walked away with S$150,000 worth of innovation vouchers and an additional S$30,000 proof-of-concept development grant.

Tapping into their fermentation process to upcycle food waste, Prefer creates bean-free coffee that retains the flavour and aroma of traditional coffee. We recently caught up with the faces behind the business – Jake Berber, CEO & Co-Founder, and Tan Ding Jie, CTO & Co-Founder – to find out what’s next for Prefer following their win.

  1. Congratulations on your win! What does being crowned the Grand Prize winner of the inaugural FTIC Food Tech Start-up Challenge mean to both of you?

Jake: This win, to me, means we are one step closer to creating a sustainable future for food and beverage. I’m so proud of my team and we’re excited to keep working to tackle current unsustainable methods of coffee production. As a result of climate change, half of the coffee farmland we have today will no longer be around by 2050. In the same period, demand for coffee is expected to double, which also means prices will increase.

With our coffee being made sustainably without beans, I’m looking forward to providing a solution to this massive challenge and disrupting the coffee industry.

Ding Jie (DJ): It means a lot to have garnered immense levels of support from the food tech community through the Challenge. We are tremendously grateful for the opportunity to showcase our work in producing bean-free coffee, alongside our peers in the industry.

  1. We hear that you’re becoming members of the FTIC community – welcome! Could you please share a bit more about your plans?

DJ: We’re all geared up to join the FTIC community. As part of that, we’ll be setting up our pilot manufacturing facility in the FTIC, which will allow us to scale production and ready ourselves to be in stores by the end of the year. Stay tuned, Singapore!

  1. How does Prefer intend to leverage the prizes awarded by the Challenge? What else is next on the horizon?

DJ: We’re now focused on making significant improvements to our product, so that it is more robust and versatile for coffee chains and FMCG companies.

We’re also looking to design more interesting coffee flavours that are inspired by regional single-origin coffees from Colombia and Ethiopia.

Jake: Further down the pipeline, our goal is to leverage our fermentation process and create a sustainable portfolio of natural flavours, such as cacao, vanilla and citrus, that are now threatened by climate change. Coffee is just the start for us!

  1. What is the biggest learning you’ve gained from your Challenge journey?

Jake: The alternative food market is a competitive space and start-ups like us need to find a way to stand out from the crowd.

The biggest takeaway we’ve gained is that a great product needs a compelling story. But more importantly, this compelling story needs a village to share it. Prefer is supported by some of the best and most passionate individuals in the industry, and we couldn’t be more grateful for our village.

  1. What are your tips to early-stage start-ups considering to be a part of the food tech community?

    Jake & DJ:

1. Put yourself out there! Any feedback is good feedback for iterating.

2. Find your tribe – the community makes all the difference in a start-up’s journey! We’ve had the pleasure of joining Nurasa’s FTIC community and we’re excited to tap into the network and resources here to further our growth.

3. Above all, prioritise having fun and learning. Good things will follow.


At Nurasa, we look forward to seeing what the future holds for Prefer and will continue to support their journey to revolutionise the coffee industry, one bean-free cup of coffee at a time.

The FTIC Food Tech Start-Up Challenge was organised by Nurasa, Trendiness AgriFood Innovation Centre, A*STAR’s Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation (SIFBI) and supported by Enterprise Singapore.

Pitch Day 27 June 2023

After months of hard work, mentoring and start-ups honing their innovative thinking and product development skills, our inaugural FTIC Food Tech Start-up Challenge culminated during Pitch Day, held at Nurasa’s Food Tech Innovation Centre [FTIC] on Tuesday, 27 June 2023.

The Challenge’s nine start-up finalists, from countries around the world, had the opportunity to present their ideas and products for alternative foods to a distinguished panel of judges from across the food tech industry and a 100-strong audience of key ecosystem players during the event’s tasting and pitching sessions at the FTIC.  Their solutions were based on either of the two Challenge tracks: Optimisation of Alternative Proteins, or the Creation of Functional Foods and New Product Formats.

The judging panel consisted of Ms Irene Cheong, Executive Director (Industry Cluster (HHP) & Venture Creation and Growth), A*STAR Innovation and Enterprise; Dr Hazel Khoo, Executive Director, A*STAR’s Singapore Institute for Food and Biotechnology Innovation (SIFBI); Ms Sharon Tay, Director of Food Manufacturing & Agritech, Enterprise Singapore; Mr Anton Wibowo, CEO, Trendlines Agrifood Innovation Centre; and Mr Alan Thompson, Interim CEO, Nurasa. Finalists were assessed based on the following criteria: (1) Product Quality, (2) Feasibility, (3) Market Potential and (4) Innovation & Capability.

The judging panel and attendees were impressed with the quality of solutions presented by all finalists as well as their commitment to creating a sustainable food future with innovations ranging from waste upcycling for new ingredients to better flavour solutions using innovative methods.

Highlighting the importance of collaboration to support emerging start-ups and accelerate the scaling of alternative foods, the judges drew attention to Singapore’s prime position as a launchpad for the sector and their excitement for the finalists to be among the leading players driving its growth.

After much deliberation by the judges, the Grand Prize went to Singapore-based Prefer, who aims to produce sustainable bean-free coffee at scale by fermenting surplus food. They were awarded S$150,000 worth of innovation vouchers and an additional S$30,000 proof-of-concept development grant.

The first runner-up was Formo, a Berlin-based start-up using precision fermentation to create animal-free cheese and egg products from microorganisms. They were awarded S$100,000 worth of innovation vouchers plus a S$30,000 proof-of-concept development grant. The second runner-up was The Mediterranean Food Lab (MFL), an Israeli start-up that merges solid state fermentation and AI to develop natural flavour solutions for a wide range of meat replacement needs. They received S$50,000 worth of innovation vouchers.

The judges commended the other finalists for demonstrating incredible fortitude and purpose throughout the Challenge: Algrow Biosciences – Allium Bio – Meatiply – Mycosortia – ULTIMEAT – WEMEET.

Congratulations to all winners and finalists! We look forward to their continued progress in building a more resilient and sustainable food system.

Thank you to our organising partners A*STAR’s Singapore Institute for Food and Biotechnology Innovation (SIFBI) and Trendlines Agrifood Innovation Centre, as well as Enterprise Singapore for their invaluable support.

FTIC Food Tech Start Up Challenge

Congratulations to the finalists of Nurasa’s inaugural FTIC Food Tech Start-up Challenge!

Our Open Call received an overwhelming response, with game-changing ideas submitted from all across the globe. After a thorough selection process, we are excited to unveil the innovative food tech start-ups that are moving through to the Make-Phase.

In the next phase dedicated to product development, finalists will receive mentoring from seasoned food tech industry experts, hone their business skills through exclusive workshops, as well as gain exposure to an extensive network of ecosystem contacts – as they work toward the final Pitch and Tasting Day in June 2023.

Congratulations and welcome to The Challenge!

Algrow BiosciencesAllium BioAuX LabsFormoMeatiplyMycosortiaPreferThe Mediterranean Food Lab (MFL)ULTIMEAT (M) SDN BHDWEMEET

Thank you to our amazing Challenge organising partners
A*STAR – Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation (SIFBI), The Trendlines Group Agrifood Innovation Centre and to Enterprise Singapore for the tremendous support!

ScaleUp Bio, the joint venture company by the Asia Sustainable Foods Platform and global nutrition leader ADM, inked a partnership with Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s (A*STAR)’s Singapore Institute of Food Biotechnology Innovation (SIFBI) to establish a joint pilot lab for food startups specialising in precision fermentation. The lab will be located in the Food Tech Innovation Centre (FTIC), a facility operated by the Asia Sustainable Foods Platform in partnership with SIFBI, at Biopolis, Singapore, and due for delivery in 2023.

To read the full story in Food Ingredients 1st, click on the link:

Photo credit: Cremer Sustainable Foods

In attendance during the official opening of the Cremer Sustainable Foods facility in Singapore were (from left to right):
Cremer Group Head of New Ventures and M&A Marcel Strassburg, Nurasa Board, Chairman Pradeep Pant,  Cremer Sustainable Nutrition General Manager Damianm, Krueger, Singapore Minister of State for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling, Cremerm, Group Chairman Dr Claus Georg Nette, Nurasa CEO Mathys Boeren and Singapore, EDB Executive Vice President Damian Chan.

Cremer Sustainable Foods, a joint venture company between the Asia Sustainable Foods Platform and German food industry leader CREMER, opened its new 11,000 sq ft CDMO facility in Tuas, Singapore, for food companies who require the use of high-moisure extrusion (HME) technology in producing plant-based alternative proteins.

Click on the link to read the full story in the Business Times:

The establishment of the Asia Sustainable Foods Platform was announced by Temasek at the inaugural Singapore International Agri-Food Week (SIAW) to “accelerate the commercialisation of food technologies.”

To read the full story in the Straits Times, click on the link (the site may require a subscription):

Panel: Driving APAC’s alternative protein ecosystem forward

  • Understanding drivers of
    consumer acceptance
  • What needs to be done to increase
    product quality – more affordability,
    nutritional value, better taste
  •  Scaling strategies for the industry to
    bridge the affordability gap
  • Operational perspective from start-ups
    – what support do they need to scale?

Karin del Rey, Program Director, Big Idea Ventures


  • Aimee Pink, Scientist, A STAR – Agency for
    Science, Technology and Research
  • Tao Zhang Co-founder, Dao Foods
  • XiuLing Guo, CEO, Nurasa
Group 737
ASTAR SIFBI Horizontal Logo RGB


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