Building sustainability for the security of tomorrow

Building sustainability for the security of tomorrow

The foodtech company Oceanus is digitalising its entire business model, which will drive supply chain innovation to advance food security.

When Mr Peter Koh took over food company Oceanus as its chief executive in December 2014, he was faced with a daunting task: to rescue a troubled business on the verge of collapse.

At the time, it had already defaulted on $94 million of secured debt after bad weather destroyed its abalone farms in Fujian, China.

Back in 1988, Mr Koh had founded a branding company and spent 22 years building it into a powerhouse with operations across three continents, before selling it to focus on charity and investments.

“I wasn’t looking for a job, but I wanted to do something with purpose. Most of Oceanus’s 10,000 shareholders at that point in time were in their golden years. Many were in tears at the thought of losing their life savings,” he recalls.

“I told myself that if I can turn the company around, it will bring hope to them.”

Over the next few years, Mr Koh assembled a team and embarked on a plan to clean up Oceanus’s operations, improve financial reporting, pull it out of the red, and set it on a path of growth.

His hard work paid off. Oceanus recorded a 597 per cent year-on-year increase in profits to $4.97 million for the first half of last year, on the back of a 553 per cent rise in revenue to $52.2 million. It also expanded to 13 offices in Singapore, China, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia and Australia.

Beyond being profitable, the firm is taking steps to become a global foodtech giant that helps customers make more informed and sustainable purchases. “Our mission now is to build sustainability today for the security of tomorrow,” Mr Koh says.

For its efforts, Oceanus is named a Champion in the Brands for Good 2021/2022 awards, under the Business for Good category.

A leader in sustainability

Since Mr Koh took the reins, Oceanus has tapped state-of-the-art technologies to improve its farming process and shrink its environmental footprint.

It is currently digitalising its business model as part of a new “tech-up” phase of growth to create more opportunities and improve efficiency.

The firm is developing a business-to-business digital exchange to connect producers, distributors and retailers. “This shared marketplace, built with our own proprietary software, will drive higher standards of efficiency, transparency and traceability,” he says.

Mr Koh points out that increasingly complex seafood supply chains, for example, have made it difficult to identify the origins of products.

“We intend to address this issue through our platform, which employs blockchain, QR codes and the Internet of Things to ensure the provenance of all food products from farm to store is kept transparent and true,” he says.

It has also invested in deep-tech firm Universal Aquaculture, which created an indoor hybrid farming system that uses less energy, space and equipment. The system also saves water by using mechanical and biological filtration to clean the water in farming tanks for recirculation.

Looking to the future 

Under its “tech-up” growth phase, Oceanus is on track to establish key aquaculture facilities in the region using deep-tech indoor farming technology. It also plans to expand its farming assets to Singapore and the greater Asia region.

Additionally, the firm is in the process of widening its network of quality suppliers and distributors across its seafood, frozen meat and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) segments. Last year, it incorporated a subsidiary, Oceanus Tradelog, to provide warehousing and logistics services for frozen meat and seafood.

It currently sells its own abalone and over 2,000 FMCG items through a distribution network that spans 16 countries. “With more suppliers and distributors, we will have a bigger base of users when we launch our digital exchange,” says Mr Koh.

Oceanus is also enhancing its portfolio of services, which includes providing consultation, business strategy, and media and corporate branding services to other companies. “We will continue to push the boundaries of immersive digital content through the metaverse and extended reality media,” he says.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of local food production not only in Singapore, but also globally. We are committed to making continuous headway in the foodtech space, to boost food security and sustainability.”

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