Harnessing the power of soil microbes for greener cosmetics

The National University of Singapore’s Environmental Research Institute (NERI) and L’Oréal Singapore have joined forces to improve the plant yield and plant health of commercially important crops through greener and more environmentally-friendly methods.

This new partnership was announced at L’Oréal’s inaugural Singapore Showcase event held on 19 April 2024.

The joint research initiative will build on National University of Singapore’s (NUS) expertise to find new ways to boost soil health and increase plant yield without needing more land or relying on chemical fertilisers.

Associate Professor Sanjay Swarup, Director of NERI, said, “The increasing demand for chemicals in various industries has led to environmental degradation and health hazards. In response, there has been a growing interest in green chemicals, which are sustainable and do not harm the environment or human health.

“Joining forces with L’Oréal gives us access to different skill sets and experience that complement our team. We hope that, by working together, we can expand our knowledge and ultimately find solutions that meet industry needs, and are beneficial to the planet.”

A 50 sqm joint grow zone and a 30-sqm precision climate chamber have been established in the NUS Agritech Centre for scientists to conduct research studies in a climate-controlled environment.

The selected plant varieties are those that produce high-value phytochemicals which are used in the formulation of cosmetics and skincare products.

Prof Swarup said, “By reprogramming plant metabolism through targeted microbial approaches, we can achieve higher yields of desired phytochemicals in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner.”

Dr Tarun Chopra, Director of Advanced Research, L’Oréal Singapore Research & Innovation, said, “We believe nature is the future of beauty and are excited about this partnership with NUS to enhance the sustainable cultivation of ingredients and extract the best that nature has to offer.”

Both NERI and L’Oréal Singapore hope the collaboration will have significant implications for the cosmetics and personal care industry, as well as other sectors that rely on green chemicals.

Promising results from the joint research will be followed by field trials for potential deployment of these solutions commercially.

Mr Brian Koh, Director of Ecosystem Development at NUS Enterprise which manages the NUS Agritech Centre, added “Our agritech centre with its state-of-the-art controlled-environment facilities and automation systems will allow researchers from L’Oréal Singapore and NUS to identify optimal growing conditions for high-value crops, thereby maximising yield and minimising resource use. We hope this will help pave the way for urban farms to become not just viable, but economically thriving contributors to our city’s food security and sustainability.”


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