Temasek Holdings Chief Executive Officer Dilhan Pillay runs a US$290 billion ($402.07 billion) state-owned investment empire. But every quarter he spends up to two hours chatting to a man in Indonesia about fish.
Those lengthy calls with Bandung-based eFishery, a startup so small it only accounts for 0.01% of Temasek’s portfolio, are emblematic of its quiet zeal for the business of food. The precarious state of the world’s food supply, highlighted by sizzling heatwaves that are wilting crops in Europe, China and the US, has found an unlikely crusader in Singapore, a small island with hardly any agriculture at all.
Under its relatively new CEO Pillay and head of agri-food Anuj Maheshwari, Temasek has doubled down on an agriculture strategy involving ambitious investments — including efforts that take control of some businesses — to try and reap profits from solving some of the biggest problems in food production. Since 2015 it’s quietly grown its life science and agriculture holdings from about US$5.7 billion to US$26.7 billion as of March this year, spanning everything from plant-based meat maker Impossible Foods Inc. and Bayer AG to Israeli irrigation firms.