While many Singaporeans are foodies, Caleb Wu isn’t. Even though he was tight with a vegetarian, junior college chum Justin Chou, his views on food and animals were at best dispassionate. All this changed at university, after volunteering at an animal welfare organisation and visiting a slaughterhouse.

“This sparked a growing interest in the food ecosystem and the food supply chain,” he says. “In the end, I wanted to align my career aspirations with a cause I felt strongly connected to, and reached out to Justin to see how we could work together to make a positive change.”

Wu, Chou and Wayne Goh co-founded Glife Technologies in 2017. Their desire to inspire others to live a green lifestyle and make positive food choices that would benefit the environment merged with a grander vision: to ensure a sustainable food future for South-east Asia.

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From the initial goal of closing the gaps in the supply chain—multiple middlemen between farmers and restaurants meant a lower quality of produce, higher prices, longer supply chains, and greater delays— Wu and his team have successfully evolved Glife into an integrated food solutions provider that now works with more than 1,000 farmers and 2,500 merchants across South-east Asia.

By integrating customer service platforms, tracking kitchen inventory, procuring supplies, providing real- time delivery updates, and leveraging AI automated ordering to bridge the inefficient gap between supply and demand, the platform is a dream come true for busy F&B businesses and their stakeholders.

In November 2021, Glife’s Series A round closed at $11 million, backed by investors such as Heliconia Capital. The move has sped up the company’s push to extend its services and solutions across the entire food supply chain and change the ecosystem forever. Glife also recently expanded into Malaysia and Indonesia.

Caleb Wu

“The biggest impact of Covid-19 on the food supply chain was the disruption to logistics. Due to the circuit breaker, many restaurants in Singapore were forced to shut, resulting in drastic and sporadic changes in the supply and demand of produce and other food items. Due to an increase in logistics and labour cost, they also made the decision to go digital. In contrast, supermarkets, neighbourhood grocers, and grocery-related e-commerce channels saw a surge in consumer demand,” explains Wu, a former asset management associate.

“Due to fluctuations in demand and supply, there is an increasing need for suppliers and restaurants to accurately predict the number of food items to procure. Extensive labour shortages, exacerbated by an over- reliance on manual processes, also severely impacts the reliability of fresh food services and suppliers.”

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Using Glife’s proprietary software solutions such as Enterprise Resources Planning, Warehouse Management System, and Transport Management System, businesses can reduce manual processes, increase productivity, and survive pandemics.

Wu, who switched to a plant-based diet several years back, says the key lies in producing and procuring the right quantity, but he also stresses the importance of education as a factor. “There aren’t many young people working in the food supply chain industry; it is slow to innovate, and many processes are still labour- intensive. It would require a lot of effort to share our knowledge with the veterans so they will start to change their processes and switch to technology.”

“As Glife opens up the food supply chain space for more tech innovation, we hope to attract young talent to it and, ultimately, highlight the hidden food loss occurring at the back end of the supply chain,” he says.

(Related: Nutrient-dense plant-based meat substitutes are the way to Singapore’s food security)

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