Melissa Ong joins as Regional CEO in charge of developing and executing the long-term strategy for TFF’s growth and impact across key geography for food and agri-tech innovation

The Thought For Food (TFF) Foundation is pleased to announce the appointment of Mrs Melissa Ong as Chief Executive Officer of TFF SE Asia.

Based in Kuala Lumpur and with a regional scope covering countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, Melissa will drive forward TFF’s work to unlock the potential of the next generations to lead a sustainable food and agriculture revolution through the development of cutting-edge, locally-relevant, science and technology-based entrepreneurial solutions.

Melissa joins TFF after serving for almost five years as CEO of the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (ASLI), an independent, non-partisan think tank governed by the not-for-profit Jeffrey Cheah Foundation, which is Malaysia’s largest education-focused social enterprise. She brings 25+ years of Asia-regional experience in International Trade, Brand Communications, Market Research, Organisational Development, Social Strategy, Corporate and Internal Communications.

Melissa started her career with HSBC, before moving on to IOI Group, KL Sentral (MRCB), and TNS (Kantar) where she was responsible for multiple portfolios covering 33 countries across Asia Pacific, Latin America, Middle East and Africa. In driving various efforts to create a better society, Melissa received the Distinguished Australian Alumni Award in December 2019. She holds an MBA from the University of Sunshine Coast, Australia and is a strong and passionate advocate of workplace gender equality, women empowerment, and women’s inclusion agenda.

Melissa also brings to the position deep experience with and passion for food and agricultural issues. She grew up in the Malaysian state of Kedah, which is considered the “rice bowl of Malaysia” for its leading role in smallholder-led paddy rice production. She is also the Co-Founder of the Alliance Network for Children, Food and Community – an NGO that aims to power the home economy and enable financial independence for women, while also combating stunting issues that affect children under five due to malnutrition as a consequence of societal inequities.

As the leader of the TFF SE Asia, Melissa will focus on scaling the reach and impact of TFF’s proven innovation engine in a strategic market by building partnerships with leading players and by carrying out TFF’s core programs locally and regionally. She will develop and execute regional and topical TFF Challenges® in order to drive innovation in areas of strategic interest to partners, and help to accelerate promising solutions and startups through local in-person TFF Academies® —all while leveraging TFF’s proprietary Digital Labs™ global learning and collaboration platform.

TFF’s unique ‘global-local’ innovation approach unites the world’s foremost experts, innovators and entrepreneurs in tackling our food system’s most urgent challenges, and facilitates global collaboration and connections to efficiently and effectively drive forward breakthrough technologies and impactful business ventures,” states Melissa Ong, Thought For Food’s CEO of the SE Asia Region. “I am thrilled by the chance to join Thought For Food’s leadership team, where I can make real impact for the region’s food and land-use sector, ensuring that it is a sustainable, vibrant, digitalised, and profitable sector for generations to come.”

The TFF global organisation is currently undertaking a significant growth strategy through the establishment of TFF Hubs in key regions of the world. Southeast Asia was selected for the first regional TFF Hub given the region’s importance for food and agricultural production and demand, and TFF’s strong existing presence through its on-the-ground network of startups, TFF Ambassadors, and partners.

Southeast Asia possesses many of the critical attributes to become a global frontrunner food and land-use innovation. The region’s tropical climate and biodiversity-rich ecosystems support the cultivation of diverse, nutritious crops all year-round, and it has a surging youth population and entrepreneurial ecosystem that is enabled by top universities, accelerators, and innovation hubs. It is expected that the TFF SE Asia Regional Hub will become fully-operational by Q1 2021.

“Food security is an important topic for Southeast Asian countries, and this issue has increased in its urgency and importance as a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Solving the challenges facing the food and agriculture sector will become even more important in the face of the inevitable future climatic, environmental, and health-related shocks that the region will face. By leveraging TFF’s well-proven people, platform and process, we will create a rich pipeline of next-gen-led food and agri-tech innovation and investment opportunities that will tangibly benefit the region, and the world,” stated Christine Gould, Founder and CEO of Thought For Food. “I am thrilled to bring on board an experienced and visionary leader like Melissa, who will help to take our organisation to the next level.”

Over the past 8 years, TFF has developed a unique innovation engine that unlocks the potential of food systems in all parts of the world. The organisation has empowered more than 25,000 young talents in 175 countries, catalysed the creation of thousands of innovative and business concepts, launched 60+ impact-focused startups that have collectively raised 160+ million dollars, built an unparalleled global community and Ambassador network, and forged partnerships with leading players across the food and agricultural value chain.

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About Thought For Food:
Thought For Food is the world’s entrepreneurial innovation engine for food and agriculture. We work with more than 20,000 next-generation leaders from over 175 countries, empowering them to generate and scale breakthrough business ventures that build sustainable, inclusive, and resilient food systems. Our comprehensive suite of next-gen innovation programs include the TFF Challenge, an annual collaborative innovation prize competition; the TFF Digital Labs, a digital startup accelerator and collaboration platform; the TFF Academy, an in-person incubation program for world-class startups; and the TFF Summit, a flagship global event focused on bringing the voices of the next generation together with policy and business leaders to co-create solutions. TFF‘s work is powered by a global operating structure that includes the TFF Core Team, 14 Regional Coordinators and 550 Ambassadors, as well as diverse partners such as Syngenta, KWS, Google and Rockefeller Foundation. Thought For Food is a 501c3 non-profit entity. Find out more about Thought For Food at