People couldn’t understand what he was doing when he launched his food tech start-up in 2016 to research and create plant-based meat substitutes. Ricky Lin, the founder of Life3 Biotech, recalls that even his mother asked, “Why are you making another type of vegetarian mock meat?”

It did not help that big players such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat were practically unheard of here at the time.

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Despite this, Lin, who had previously served in the Singapore Armed Forces, was aware of the country’s food vulnerability. “My career in the military opened my eyes to understanding what food security and resilience are all about. I decided to figure out how to create a more sustainable source of protein in a land- scarce country.”

With Life3 Biotech, he aimed to develop plant- based foods and beverages to address nutritional deficiencies and poor lifestyle habits.

“We want to change the food supply system by creating ‘clean energy’ for the body,” he says. Like making a cookie or muffin out of different ingredients, the company maintains a database of various plant- based ingredients such as legumes and peas that are categorised according to their macro- and micro- nutrient content. Once a blend has been made, it is processed to resemble meat.

Currently, Life3 has two products. Veego, made primarily from legumes and microalgae, has the texture of sliced meat, while Peasy, made mostly from pea protein, has a minced texture.

Peasy has been certified by the Health Promotion Board, and can be found in some school tuckshops, where stall partners have come up with creative ways to serve the protein, from patties and wraps to yong tau foo stuffing.

Currently produced in small batches, Veego is distributed to select F&B partners such as Conrad Hotel.

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Lim, who became vegetarian when he launched Life3 because of a family history of diabetes, hopes to help decrease overdependence on meat. “It’s not to convert everyone to vegetarianism but rather to provide options for a balanced diet. You can have animal meat but also plant-based meat,” adds Lin, who has a three-year-old son, and whips up fuss- free, kid-friendly dishes, such as pasta with marinara sauce or fried rice, with Peasy.

Life3 plans to open its pilot factory in Paya Lebar, which will house a processing line worth more than US$3 million (S$4 million), by the end of the year to scale up production. In addition to offering ingredients for products produced by local and global food companies, the factory will also provide R&D and production capabilities to support innovation.

The company plans to expand with regional partners to establish its presence in Asia-Pacific soon, too. He also tells us that he will look into setting up another factory in China after the Singapore site is up and running.

“I believe that this industry will not just be dominated by the food giants,” he says. “I am optimistic that we can significantly contribute to improving human health and meeting nutritional requirements, and that providing a sustainable protein source will help end nutritional insecurity and hunger worldwide.”

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