From farm to factory to consumer: Integrating microalgae and solar energy

Tuesday, January 16th, 2024

From farm to factory to consumer: LUSH — World’s first low-carbon facility with the ‘Farm to Factory to Consumer’ concept | One of the key features of the LUSH facility is its Hydroponics Integrating MicroAlgae and Solar Energy System (HIMASS). It is a two-in-one solution, harnessing solar energy and water-upcycling to produce plant-protein and leafy vegetables sustainably in a closed-loop symbiotic system.

 

Life3 Biotech, a Singaporean food tech start-up, will be setting up the world’s first low-carbon facility in Singapore by the second quarter of 2024. This is a collaboration with Union Solar, a Singapore company that turns underutilised space into a solar energy farm that works to generate sustainable, renewable energy for various business needs.

 

Named LUSH — Life3 Urban Sustainability Hub — the facility will integrate the ‘Farm to Factory to Consumer’ concept. Life3 will leverage on renewable energy, AI and food-biotechnology to pioneer a low-carbon, smart urban food production system. LUSH is targeted to open around the second quarter of 2024.

 

 

Hydroponics Integrating MicroAlgae and Solar Energy System (HIMASS)

One of the key features of the LUSH facility is its Hydroponics Integrating MicroAlgae and Solar Energy System (HIMASS). It is a two-in-one solution, harnessing solar energy and water-upcycling to produce plant-protein and leafy vegetables sustainably in a closed-loop symbiotic system. The facility will also have a food processing and innovation area, for post-harvest MicroAlgae biomass to be processed into Algoprotein which can be added into food products. LUSH will also have a tech experiential area for members of the public to engage in site visits, workshops and courses to learn about sustainability and healthy living.

 

Commenting on this important milestone, Ricky Lin, CEO of Life3 Biotech, said, “As a world’s first, HIMASS is a game-changing technology and a critical piece of the puzzle to complete our Life3 Urban Sustainability Hub where we can demonstrate how a smart, end-to-end food production system can be deployed sustainably in urban cities; starting from upstream cultivation to midstream processing and packaging, and lastly, to meet downstream consumers’ need for affordable and healthy food products, all made possible in Singapore with lower-carbon footprint.”

 

“Besides the ‘hardware’ innovations, Life3 will build on its existing Project GROW initiative with grassroots organisations to upgrade the ‘heartware’. LUSH will be used to engage and empower local communities such as children, youths and seniors through upskilling classes, site tours and workshops for residents to embrace a more sustainable and healthier lifestyle. We will continue to work closely with leading industry players in the private and government sector, like the Public Utilities Board (PUB) and Singapore Food Agency (SFA), to cement Singapore’s position as a leader in food innovation,” Mr Lin added.

 

 

Driving sustainability through partnerships and innovation

Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) were signed between Life3 and the following parties to further the capabilities and capacities of HIMASS: Union Solar, AI Singapore, Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP).

 

HIMASS will be equipped with solar panels to convert solar energy into other forms of energy for MicroAlgae production. To keep carbon emissions low for logistics, the solar panel system will also power-up its EV-chargers, which in turn charge up the electric trucks that will complete the last-mile delivery to commercial partners or consumers directly.

 

“United in purpose, Union Solar shares Life3’s vision for a low-carbon and greener tomorrow at the Life3 Urban Sustainability Hub. We are also impressed by the concept of HIMASS unlocking synergies between solar energy and plant-protein as it maximises land-use and fosters resource efficiency therefore enhancing the economic viability of urban food production. This integrated approach represents a holistic solution that aligns with Union’s goals to expand beyond Singapore into the region; thus creating a more sustainable and resilient future for generations to come,” said Mr Teo Kiang Ang, Chairman of Union Energy Group.

 

HIMASS will use a hydroponics and water-upcycling process for wastewater to be upcycled. This minimises water consumption via a circular economy approach. During this process, bio-fertiliser will be produced as a byproduct to be used later in hydroponics.

 

Another novel feature for HIMASS is the proprietary AI-software that was created to oversee the growing process, which includes monitoring, quality control at microscopic resolutions and maximising the growing and harvesting cycle. AI-enabled IoT through the Digital Twin’s technology will transform and enhance productivity through predictive simulation, operational control, and real-time optimisation. For instance, using AI image recognition for real time quality control will speed up this process by 30 times. Life3’s partnership with industry bodies such as AI Singapore aim to further the adoption and innovation of AI in the areas of food technology.

 

“AI Singapore’s mission is to anchordeep national capabilities in Artificial Intelligence to create social and economic impacts as well as help the industry accelerate the adoption of AI. Building on the strength of AISG’s AI engineering talent, coupled with Life3’s innovative HIMASS technologies, we are excited to be in this partnership to transform our agri-food industry into an innovative, smart and sustainable system. This partnership with a food biotechnology start-up is the first-of-its-kind and we are looking forward to see how the synergies between AI engineers and food-biotechnologists will be unlocked to do greater good for the community-at-large,” said Mr Laurence Liew, Director of AI Innovation, AI Singapore.

 

Life3 and Union Solar will collaborate with tertiary institutions Nanyang Polytechnic and ITE to spark interest and inspire youths to pursue their interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) via the route of Applied Learning in Variable Environment (ALIVE); while co-creating solutions towards achieving two key pillars of the SG Green Plan – building a resilient future and living more sustainably.

Ms Low Khah Gek, CEO, Institute of Technical Education, says, “Empowering the next generation, this first-of-its-kind partnership between ITE, Life3 Biotech and Union Solar in pioneering the HIMASS technology serves as a beacon for our students. It’s a transformative journey where such industry-led projects and community-based learning can be integrated into the academic syllabus, offering hands-on experiences and interdisciplinary skills, shaping future leaders in sustainable food-biotechnology, AI and renewable energy.

 

“Nanyang Polytechnic is ecstatic to partner with Life3 Biotech. The opening of LUSH marks a significant leap into the development of agri-food and food-biotech innovation. By integrating cross-faculties knowledge, talents and equipment, this partnership propels students and researchers beyond conventional boundaries, unlocking a realm to develop holistic 360-degree solutions focusing on commercialising sustainable and nutritious plant-based food and beverage. Together, we will foster a  new generation of pioneers armed with knowledge, skills, and the power to redefine the future of food starting in Singapore,” said Dr Joel Lee, Director of School of Applied Science at Nanyang Polytechnic.

 

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