Food security is a subject that is pertinent to Singapore. Most of the food we eat comes from overseas. Take leafy vegetables for example. Local farms produced about 11,000 tonnes of it in 2016. This amounted to 10 percent of the nation’s total consumption.
Our reliance on imports must be effectively balanced with a greater measure of self-sufficiency that can reduce the impact of any food supply disruption. On the other hand, the limited availability of farm space in Singapore poses a constant challenge – there are competing requirements for housing, industry, defence, transport, port and maritime activities.
Food farming will continue to be important to us, even as our space becomes more urbanised. With the Government’s aim to boost local supply and at the same time maximise land usage, farms must be able to provide Singapore with even more food. The output per square foot needs to be significantly increased.
This is why the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has adopted a new approach to the tenders for agriculture land meant for growing food.
“A modern agriculture sector will continue to play a key role in Singapore’s future, even as our economy evolves and our society becomes more urbanised.”
Mr Lawrence Wong
Minister for National Development
(in his blog post dated 9 May 2017)
This machine helps Seng Choon to detect eggs that are cracked.
New approach to land tenders for food farms
AVA will be releasing 36 plots of farmland in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah for tender. The plots will be released in tranches over the next two years. The tender for 12 land parcels for vegetable farming in Lim Chu Kang was launched on 17 August 2017. All plots will be let on 20-year leases.
In line with the direction of the Farm Transformation Map announced in March 2017, the tender process will steer local farming towards technology adoption and a high level of sustained intensity. The new farm land will be tendered using new methods:
a) Fixed price tender method (for leafy vegetable, food fish, bean sprout, and quail egg farming). The land price is fixed and bidders compete purely on the tender proposals submitted.
b) Concept and price tender method (for general agriculture food farming). Bidders who meet the evaluation criteria are shortlisted. The tender would then be awarded to the shortlisted bidder with the highest bid price.
The evaluation of bids will hinge heavily on the quality of proposals, which must outline the measures each farm plans to take in maximising productivity.
Concept proposals submitted by prospective farms will be evaluated according to the following criteria:
- The ability to achieve high production levels.
- The ability to achieve projected production levels based on past performance.
- Relevant experience and qualifications.
- The ability to use innovation to improve and sustain production, and maintain business viability.
AVA recognises that some farmers may not be familiar with the new tender process, as the bid for farm lands had traditionally been based on price. To help farmers, AVA will conduct advisory sessions on how to draft proposals before every tender is launched.
Read more about the locations, sizes, and launch periods of the various land plots here.
How does AVA help farmers scale up on technology & productivity?
Farmers are encouraged to tap into AVA's $63-million Agriculture Productivity Fund (APF) to implement or plan for farm upgrades and R&D. To give farmers a more instantaneous boost, from April 2017, APF disburses 30 percent of the approved funding quantum upfront to facilitate the adoption of new technology.
Transfer of Technology
An example of our technology transfer and technical support: AVA worked with a local farm to successfully breed Jade Perch locally and develop the culture protocol for fry production.
Scientists and technologists in AVA are constantly researching on agricultural technology that suits the needs of local farms. We also work with the private sector to develop innovative solutions and test-bed farming technologies. Findings from our studies and trials are regularly shared with local farmers. For example, AVA has been inviting farmers to learn about our ongoing research on indoor multi-tier farming systems. In addition, we organise technology-matching sessions between farmers and solution providers.
We provide technical advisory on good farm management practices and disease management. AVA also offers a helping hand to farms that require technical assistance in setting up new systems or technologies. In addition, technology matching sessions are conducted to introduce farmers to solution providers and technology developers.
Dedicated Account Managers
Beginning April 2017, each farm has been assigned a dedicated account manager from AVA, who provides targeted advice on matters such as business development, technology adoption, and financial assistance. He/she also facilitates each farm's interactions with various agencies and stakeholders.
Overseas Study Trips
AVA has been assisting farmers to keep abreast of new farming technologies by organising trips to countries that are highly urbanised. Together with industry members and relevant public agencies, we recently visited Beijing and Zhongshan, as well as cities in Hainan and Yunnan provinces, in April 2017. Participants learned how farms in these areas reap the benefits of cultivating vegetables without soil mediums, using the Internet-of-Things approach to create greater ease in farm management, and installing sensors and advanced monitoring systems.
Senior Minister of State Dr Koh Poh Koon (in red) with a delegation of Singapore’s farmers and public officers at an indoor vertical farm in China.