Why virtual twins are essential to the future of food

Industrial farming of animals for meat production is neither environment-friendly nor sustainable. Consider this: It takes 2,500 calories of animal feed to produce just 100 calories of beef for human consumption. Similarly, producing 100 calories of chicken meat requires 900 calories of chicken feed.

The global food demand is expected to rise by 70% by 2050, with the human population projected to reach 9.7 billion. To meet this demand, humanity would require to farm an additional surface area equivalent to 1.7 times the size of the Earth. Currently, agricultural production contributes 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions, significantly impacting global warming and climate change.

Plant-based meat is crucial to Singapore’s strategy to diversify food sources and achieve food self-sufficiency. The country aims to increase self-sufficiency in food from 10% to 30% by 2030, known as Singapore’s 30×30 goal for food sustainability. The Singapore government is spearheading a major initiative to attain self-sufficiency in water and food amidst climate change. In fact, Temasek started the Asian Sustainable Food Platform in 2021 (recently renamed to NURASA) to accelerate the commercialization of sustainable food in Asia.

Dassault Systèmes is set to play a pivotal role, not just in Singapore but globally, in the pursuit of sustainable food. The company can provide the systems and streamline the processes for the discovery and production of sustainable foods. This encompasses transforming lab practices, speeding up innovation, reducing the time from idea to product in innovation testing, guiding product discovery from start to finish, and providing virtual environments and labs for comprehensive collaboration among stakeholders.

In an interview with Frontier Enterprise, Ken Chew Tan, Director, Business Consulting, Consumer Packaged Goods & Retail Industry at Dassault Systèmes discusses how the company’s solutions can boost Singapore’s sustainable food initiatives and drive innovation to realize the widespread adoption of sustainable food.

How can alternative food be a solution to Singapore’s quest to increase self-sufficiency in food supply from 10% to 30%? What role can Dassault Systèmes play in this?

Investing in alternative proteins, alongside advancements in vertical farming and aquaculture, offers Singapore options that complement existing, traditional sources of food. These local, alternative sources have the advantage of being less susceptible to supply chain disruptions.

Dassault Systèmes is poised to significantly contribute to Singapore’s 30×30 goal, primarily by accelerating innovation in the value creation process. Our role is to help food and beverage companies in becoming:

  1. Faster: Reduce lead times from lab to pilot to scale.
  2. Better: Launch products tailored to the unique tastes of consumers in Asia.
  3. Sustainable: Source globally for the right, sustainable ingredients.

How do we do this? Through our 3DEXPERIENCE platform. This cloud-based, enterprise-grade, virtual and scientific platform enables companies to launch products in a manner that is faster, better, and more sustainable. Its solutions include, but are not limited to, ingredient discovery, in-silico modeling, collaboration across sites, and the protection of new intellectual property, all leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning.

How can the 3DEXPERIENCE platform for the food industry make regulatory compliance more streamlined and effective?

Meeting or even exceeding regulatory compliance standards is key to any successful new product introduction process.

Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform plays a pivotal role in ensuring proper compliance. It maintains the integrity of workflows and ensures top-notch quality in both research and development and the product development processes. In-silico modeling is a key feature of the platform, helping not only in simulating a formulation’s performance, but also in predicting product stability, which is crucial in food safety. Additionally, our collaboration with a specialist firm enhances regulatory compliance across various product categories and jurisdictions.

How does the 3DEXPERIENCE platform accelerate the development of sustainable food?

We contribute to the acceleration of sustainable food development, from lab-to-pilot and pilot-to-scale stages, in the following ways:

  • Virtual twins of products: This involves digitalizing all product attributes, including 3D visualization of protein strains, protein docking, ingredient development, stability tests, bills of materials, specification sheets, sustainable packaging design, and the digital simulation of overall processes.
  • Virtual twins of supply chains: We digitalize the entire supply chain, enabling the simulation of optimal sourcing strategies for ingredients and raw materials. This approach considers multiple constraints as “puzzles” to be solved.
  • Virtual twins of production: The solution includes the digitalization of the manufacturing environment, encompassing master production scheduling, detailed production scheduling, and other key processes.

What efficiencies in driving early-stage discovery can the 3DEXPERIENCE platform bring?

To put it simply, one can “do more, with less.”

One of our customers, a major global consumer packaged goods company based in Europe, was able to shorten its product development lead time by 50% and save approximately €30 million a year in development costs.

How does the 3DEXPERIENCE platform leverage AI and ML to improve modeling and simulation for the development of sustainable food?

Our proprietary machine learning capabilities and purpose-built solutions support scientists in fields from bioinformatics to sequence analytics, improving the innovation process in areas like ingredient discovery and product performance simulation, among others.

Of course, we recognize that many food scientists may not be well-versed in machine learning applications. Hence, we offer customized, outcome-based engagements to help our customers develop models that align with their unique R&D needs.

The 3DEXPERIENCE platform facilitates the easy capture and sharing of new knowledge across internal teams, promoting enhanced collaboration across multiple sites and domains.

What are the benefits of precision nutrition and what are the innovations possible in this area with the 3DEXPERIENCE platform?

Precision nutrition enables companies to mass-customize their products for specific, targeted consumer subcategories. For example, performance athletes such as triathletes and long-distance runners require nutrition vastly different from that of the average consumer. This approach allows for the creation of products tailored for such subcategories. Additionally, researchers can customize products for consumers based on age, gender, specific dietary preferences, religious requirements, or genetic profiles.

Precision nutrition also fits under our ambition of developing virtual twins of humans, which is perhaps our most ambitious and complex aspiration to date.

How can Dassault Systèmes support sustainable food companies in consumer insight prediction?

In the changing landscape of media and content consumption, Dassault Systèmes can empower marketers to perform qualitative consumer sentiment analysis, identify emerging trends, and find the right influencers for partnerships.

Such insights can help food and beverage companies to identify, develop, and position their offering to the right consumer segments, with strategies that encompass distinct differentiation, branding, and pricing.

How can virtual twins enhance collaboration between stakeholders in the sustainable food ecosystem — from governments and research companies to producers?

Government agencies, regulatory bodies, research institutes, academia, NGOs, and other key stakeholders of the food ecosystem must collaborate to address major challenges such as poverty and malnutrition, food security and safety, climate change, and sustainable energy.

These challenges can’t be solved by any single government or organization no matter how motivated or well-funded they are. All parties need to bring their respective strengths and capabilities to the table and tackle these interconnected challenges collaboratively.

Virtual twin technologies can bring all stakeholders in Singapore together to collaborate over “the single version of the truth.” This approach is key to accelerating the innovation process, from upstream research and development, through midstream product development, to downstream production at scale, and the commercialization of alternative proteins.

Singapore is fortunate to have a government that is visionary and proactive in building an ecosystem to address the 30×30 goal. Singapore is widely known as the “Silicon Valley” of food science and alternative proteins, a status achieved in no small part due to various government-orchestrated initiatives.