Singaporeans have a reputation as foodies, but could our small city-state run out of food one day?
This article was originally published for the Singapore Green Plan 2030 on greenplan.medium.com.
Image: Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment
This conversation is all the more pressing now, given the impact of climate change on food production. Food security is no longer just a buzzword — it’s critical. Despite having limited resources, Singapore has always worked to ensure that there will always be food on our plates.
That is why our food security strategy is not to put all our eggs in one basket. In fact, we have three!
In line with the Singapore Green Plan 2030, we are building our agri-food industry’s capability and capacity to produce 30% of our nutritional needs locally and sustainably by 2030 — otherwise known as our ’30 by 30’ target.
Here’s how we are going to grow more fresh produce right here in Singapore!
#1: We’re Not Just A City Of Skyscrapers, We’ve Got Farms Too
Due to our land scarcity, Singapore has gotten creative when it comes to finding spaces for farming — even the rooftops of HDB multi-storey car parks and shopping malls are potential spaces for thriving farms.
Urban multi-storey carpark rooftop farm @ Citiponics.
One such urban vertical farm by Citiponics spans 1,900 sqm and is located at a HDB car park rooftop at Blk 352A Ang Mo Kio Street 32! It aims to grow up to four tonnes of pesticide-free leafy vegetables (Georgina Lettuce to be exact) a month.
‘Here got farm meh?’ — Citiponics
Edible Garden City, is another advocate for urban farming and greening of under-utilised spaces. For their sustainability efforts, they even received the President’s Award for the Environment this year. (Psst! It is Singapore’s highest environmental accolade.)
President’s Award for the Environment 2021 Recipient— Edible Garden City
If you didn’t already know, Edible Garden City also runs a lush 465 sqm urban farm on the rooftop of Funan Mall. A wide range of over types of 50 fresh veggies and fruits are grown there, from basil and butterfly pea flowers to oyster mushrooms, with most of the harvest being supplied to restaurants within the building.
Funan Urban Farm by Edible Garden City. Image: Edible Garden City
Other than leafy veggies, there are also other urban farms in Singapore producing fish, eggs, mushrooms and more. Check them out here.
The community can also contribute! Over at Tampines Ave 5, a vertical vegetable farm has been built on the wall of Blk 146. Known as ‘Sustainability @ Tampines Park’, the farm is coupled with a black soldier fly (BSF) composting facility and tilapia farm to demonstrate the circularity of sustainable food production!
Greens such as nai bai and red bayam are grown at the Tampines Park vertical high-tech farm.
Under this pilot project, Tampines residents segregate food waste generated at home, to be fed to the BSF larvae. The larvae, which are a good source of nutrients, can then be fed to the tilapias in a nearby pond. The excreta from the larvae can also be used as fertiliser for the vegetables grown in the vertical farm!
Containers of food waste to be fed to BSF larvae
BSF larvae (right) are used to break down food waste into fertiliser (left).
What’s more, residents can buy the vegetables and fish using the ‘green currency’ they accumulated from contributing their food waste. This circular ecosystem helps reduce food waste and strengthens the community’s food resilience.
Tilapia fish, which are a hardy species that's easy to farm and highly nutritious, in the pond at Tampines Park.
#2 Call In The Bots
With the earned moniker of being a Smart Nation, our approach in leveraging technology is no different when it comes to food production.
The idea of farming fish on land seems to defy the odds, but Blue Ocean Aquaculture Technology (BOAT) has done just that. It makes use of an indoor Recirculating Aquaculture System which allows it to farm in a controlled environment and recycle water within the production loop. Tapping on technological innovations like nano-oxygen technology, the factory-based indoor fish farm produces up to 18 tonnes of jade perch and red tilapia annually.
Fish farming on land
Meanwhile, Singapore’s Seng Choon egg farm also taps on technology to automate the farm’s processes, such as its feeding and waste cleaning systems and temperature controls. This increases the farm’s productivity, allowing it to produce 625,000 eggs a day with just 100 workers on the farm.
Leveraging technology to automate processes
Vegetable farms such as Sustenir Agriculture are also leveraging technology to produce greens that are not native to the tropics, such as Tuscan kale and lettuce. The indoor farm makes use of a controlled environment agriculture system which allows it to monitor and adjust variables like temperature and humidity to ensure optimal conditions for plant growth.
The indoor farming system recirculates water for reuse, utilising 95% less water than a traditional farm.
#3 Made In Singapore Also Good Leh
You don’t have to look high and low for local produce. They can be easily found at supermarkets and online — just look out for the SG Fresh Produce logo.
SG Fresh Produce logo
Other than supporting local farmers, increasing demand for local produce also encourages them to increase productivity to meet these supply needs. This, in turn, helps strengthen our food security.
But supporting local is also much more than just helping the producers. It also means fresher and more nutritious food for the consumer since it takes a lot less time to reach them.
From Farm to Supermarket: The Journey of a Local Bok Choy
This shortened supply chain is more eco-friendly too, as it lowers transport and storage-related greenhouse gas emissions. As the produce is grown in Singapore, it can be easily traced back to its sources and you can be assured of the produce’s quality.
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#4 Choosing The Farm Life
The overall push to build our agri-food industry’s capability and capacity also means that more agri-talents are needed. Modern and urban farmers aren’t the stereotypical ones you think of, with straw hats doing backbreaking and laborious work under the sun. More and more processes are becoming automated, as technology advances.
Young fish farmer, Marcus, is 24 years-old and one of the youngest members of the team at Prime Aqua Sea Farm — a massive coastal fish farm, that is a 3.5-hectare floating structure, located north of Pulau Tekong.
Prime Aqua Sea Farm
Marcus shared that processes such as the monitoring of fish are automated and staff members are able to survey fishing net conditions and observe fish behaviour in a central location, thanks to the use of remotely automated vehicles. Fish feeding is also automated to ensure punctual feeding times and that an accurate amount of feed is dispensed.
Monitoring of fish
And that’s not all the tech that is used at this fish farm. Besides working with NUS’ Tropical Marine Science Institute to ensure minimal disruption to the surrounding environment, the sea farm uses 416 solar panels for 70% of its energy consumption. Talk about a win-win!
Don’t miss out on Marcus’ story and how locally grown fish are harvested and sold within 24-hours here.
Time to harvest these locally grown fish!
There is a wide range of exciting career opportunities in fields such as R&D, agriculture and aquaculture sciences and feed nutrition, among others. And with smart farms operating like any other high-tech manufacturing plan, experts in fields such as engineering and information technology would also be needed to tap on automation and the Internet of Things.
Sustenir’s high-tech indoor farm produces over 90 tonnes of crops annually
Choosing the farm life could prove to be a lot more dynamic than you’d think. Find out more here.
#5 Advancing Towards Our Target
Our ’30 by 30’ target is an ambitious one, given Singapore’s resource and space constraints.
Trials on indoor multi-tier planting systems
Of course, there’s also help on hand to give our agri-food industry a boost.
This year, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) awarded over $23 million in funding to 12 projects under the grant call for research and development for sustainable urban food production, under the Singapore Food Story R&D Programme. These projects are in the domain of aquaculture and urban agriculture, and span key research areas such as genetics, and disease and health management — all in the name of increasing the productivity of local food producers.
Local companies such as Seng Choon, who produces locally grown hen shell eggs, have tapped on SFA’s Agricultural Productivity Fund
There’s also a $60 million Agri-Food Cluster Transformation (ACT) Fund by SFA, to support local farmers in their efforts to expand production capability, boost yield, raise productivity, sustainability and improve circularity of resource use.
While we are committed to producing more food locally, it’s important to ensure this is done in a sustainable manner.
Mmhmm, fresh fish for dinner tonight?
We will continue to review our ’30 by 30’ target to ensure food production is resource optimal as well as environmentally and commercially sustainable. But one thing’s for sure, Singapore is committed to building a more resilient food future for all of us, so that food security is so much more than just a buzzword.
Now, time to makan!
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Last updated on Tuesday, April 14, 2020