A Future in ASEAN | Food Sustainability & Innovations
A Future in ASEAN | Food Sustainability & Innovations

As part of the Asia-Ready Webinar Series, ABYA and the National Youth Council co-hosted the webinar, A Future in ASEAN | Food Sustainability & Innovations, on 13 November 2021. More than 100 attendees tuned in to catch the perspectives shared by the Webinar’s three esteemed panelists: Benedict Tan from HATCH Blue, Ramesh Krish Kumar from Asmara, and Yien Li Yap who is a food sustainability specialist and currently a graduate student at the National University of Singapore.


The session kick-started with each sharing about their involvement in different areas of the food system such as aquaculture, research and development, and waste reduction. Benedict also delivered an overview of the global billion-dollar aquaculture sector, while Ramesh and Yien Li gave a snapshot of their prior experiences and motivations in the food industry.

Written by: Edric
Edited by: Wei Wen

Issues on the Food and Agricultural Industry in ASEAN

The panelists next discussed the state of the food and agricultural industry in ASEAN. They agreed on the importance of harnessing technology to improve the industry, noting that technology could boost the aquacultural sector and reduce food waste. However, utilizing technology had its challenges, such as convincing firms, that are apprehensive to share confidential information for fear of data breaches.


Other related matters were also considered; For starters, the panelists acknowledged that the very theme of “sustainability” belied easy definition. Ramesh and Benedict also proposed that “sustainability” possesses a monetary dimension on top of the environmental aspect. That is, a product may not be sustainable if it is too expensive and inaccessible to consumers, regardless of the technological innovation behind it. Furthermore, the panelists expressed concerns about “greenwashing” – the practice of purportedly championing sustainability efforts without regard to their actual impact on society.

What makes up a sustainable ecosystem?

The discussion then shifted to consider a closely related question: what does it mean to have a sustainable ecosystem? Benedict suggested assessing sustainability from the ESG perspective – environmental, social (e.g., fair wages for workers) and governance. Yien Li noted that innovation and problem-solving was more important than merely using technology, citing examples of firms using “low-tech” solutions (e.g., seaweed farming) that were nonetheless more sustainable. This, she believed, could provide an avenue for additional sustainable economic opportunities in ASEAN.

The Future for Youths in Sustainability and the Food Industry

Finally, the panelists delved into the youths’ career prospects in this industry, and how they could be more involved in one way or another. Citing her own career experience, Yien Li advised that our choice of careers could be guided by two key concerns – what we feel we are good at, and what interests us. She also hoped for youths to bring sustainability into their careers irrespective of the industry. Ramesh believed that any research-based innovation should aim at commercialization, noting that some research ideas lacked this aim despite substantial research grants. Benedict, echoing a point made earlier by Yien Li, further advised that any such innovation should answer a real business problem, rather than a perceived problem, and this would require clear communication with stakeholders.

Missed this chance to attend this webinar? Watch out for upcoming fireside chats, webinars and masterclasses on ABYA’s telegram or Instagram to gain interesting insights!