Serving up the future

Private guests savour an exclusive glimpse of the brave new world of food tech at DBS BusinessClass’s inaugural F&B [email protected] Bay.

serving up the future

DBS BusinessClass’s inaugural F&B Disrupt @ The Bay – a paradigm-shifting showcase of cutting-edge tech startups at the forefront of the F&B revolution – unfolded in spectacular fashion on the 10th of June at The Promontory @ Marina Bay, drawing attendees in the hundreds ranging from VIP investors to aspiring F&B players.

A formidable array of aerial drones, robot waiters, 3D printed chocolate, interactive restaurant technology, robotic ice-cream vending machines, artisanal French wine and succulent fresh oysters were out in full-force to assault and overwhelm the audience’s senses – and tastebuds.

DBS BusinessClass F&B Disrupt@TheBay

Drones - by Garuda Robotics, a leading Singapore-based Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) solutions provider

“Something is changing in the present moment,” asserts Marius Robles, CEO of Spanish food tech startup Reimagine Food, which aims to be a global disruptive center that connects food startups and F&B companies with breakthrough ideas. According to him, investments in food tech is skyrocketing across Europe – €2.68b in 2014, divided among just 349 food tech operations. The bigger surprise? Just nine years ago, the figure stood at a mere €16m with only 4 food startups. The launchpad of the next tech revolution, it seems, appears to be based out of the kitchen.

Robles, who spends a lot of time thinking about how new, emerging and disruptive can impact the food and consumer market, went on to explain that at present there are more than 1,400 tech startups around the world that are changing the game of food – and that number is growing. He cites as examples, among many others:

Soylent – A powdered meal replacement product that meets all your nutritional requirements that can be prepared in 3 minutes for just $3 a day.

Ophone – A gadget that works in tandem with an app that allows users to send smells to one another.

Farmigo – An online farmer’s market that connects users directly to local producers in their area where they can get all of your fresh food needs.

SCIO – A pocket molecular sensor that lets you scan things like food, plants and medicine and have information about its chemical make-up sent directly to your smartphone.

Nor Suhir is likely to agree. “The future is right in front of you,” she announced boldly as ‘Techi’ - proclaimed by its makers as the world’s first F&B and Hotel robot - steadily ascended a red-carpeted ramp leading up to the stage. Her firm, Singapore-based Techmetics, provides innovative solutions in F&B, hospitality and healthcare using robots in the service industry while exploring the automation of ancillary and unproductive tasks.

dbs serving up the future industry tour

Techni - proudly developed by Techmetics

Somewhat resembling a distant cousin of the beloved R2-D2 automaton from the Star Wars movies, Techi comes equipped with motion sensors, a humanistic voice module and delivers F&B and other items of interest to guests within a spacious dome that caps its rotund frame.

Techi’s show-stealing debut on stage was matched, only moments later, by an equally dramatic demonstration of what the future could look like when robots take over the skies as an aerial drone picked up a package attached to its underside, zipped nimbly over the heads of a fascinated audience and delivered it into the waiting hands of Mark Yong, CEO of Garuda Robotics.

A Singapore-based robotics solutions company with a focus on South-east Asia, Garuda wants to be part of the overall food production chain – by deploying drone fleets to conduct surveillance and gather data on a wide range of applications, among them land surveys and agriculture. Through accurate tree counting and thermal monitoring of large swathes of arable land, Garuda aims to improve productivity and sustainability for plantation owners in the long-run.

Next to take to the stage was Dmtryo Kostyk. Hailed as the Ukrainian Steve Jobs, Kostyk, who founded his first company at 14 and made his first million at 19, announced his grand vision to transform the way we experience F&B dining forever – through Interactive Restaurant Technology (IRT). The founder of Ukraine-based tech innovation firm Kodisoft, Kostyk’s IRT technology, features restaurant table and bar-tops with interactive one-touch surfaces that allows you to view menu items, place orders, watch your meal being prepared, as well as connect socially with other diners in the vicinity.

Victor Chia, President of Engineering Computer Services, gave a mouth watering presentation on his easy-to-use 3D chocolate printing machine, ‘ChocoSketch.’ Describing how food items like starch dough, sugar, cream paste and of course, chocolate can be 3D-sculpted into an highly-intricate object through ChocoSketch’s Fused Deposit Modeling Technology, Chia highlighted vast opportunites for bakeries, restaurants or F&B startups in the area of customised chocolate gifts or product line expansion.

dbs serving up the future f&b
Engineering Computer Services (ECS) is an exclusive distributor of Choco Sketch, a 3D Chocolate Printer

“Despite rising costs, shortages in manpower and increased competition, the consumer food service sector in Singapore continues to grow,” declared Lim Chu Chong, Regional Head of SME Banking at DBS.

Lim’s views were echoed by Andy Sim, SVP of Group Research, DBS, who described how the consumer food service market in Singapore grew by a whopping S$1b between 2010 and 2014. Now currently worth S$6.1b, the food sector is projected to hit a valuation of S$7b by 2018. He also elaborated on how the average Singaporean spent S$2000 per month eating out last year, leading to a rise in the number of food service outlets in 2014 to an all-time high of 5,636.

Having related these figures, Sim went on to highlight 5 key F&B trends that look set to prevail in the coming years and encouraged companies to draw inspiration from these ideas to take their brands forward.

Online engagement via social media, website, email and mobile channels – F&B brands and startups need to create loyalty and engage their audiences through digital platforms like FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, Chope, Burpple and Club Vivre.

Leveraging 3rd party platforms – Climbing aboard third-party platforms such as FoodPanda, Eatigo and DBS Indulge will continue to be an efficient way for F&B brands to connect with and reach out to new customers.

Seeking product variety and unique trends - An seemingly-insatiable demand for novelty F&B products like craft beer and customized handmade treats looks set to stay.

Brand tailoring to enhance appeal –‘The Corner’, an indie-looking stand-alone McCafé by McDonalds in Sydney, Australia, is an attempt by one of the world’s most recognizable brands to tailor its image to cater to the sophisticated café-going local market.

Health - The continual rise of health conscious eaters has led to a fast-growing market for fresh and natural F&B products that, like the ubiquitous Salad Stop, are both personalised and convenient.

View the full list of speakers and exhibitors here.

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