Like food, relationships take time to grow, and SFA account manager Jasper Toh shares his experience as he works alongside local farms to strengthen Singapore’s food security.
SFA Account Managers work closely with farms to help them navigate regulatory requirements and share about initiatives that can improve the farm’s productivity.
It may not be a common career aspiration but I have always held a keen interest in the farming industry. In particular, the techy side of food production has its allure, especially when I get to see how innovative practices and new technology can help farmers overcome issues like resource scarcity and unpredictable climate conditions.
I have spent almost 10 years in with various roles related to food.
Singapore’s Food Security: A national importance
Today, I work as an account manager in SFA’s Industry Development and Community Partnership team. In this role, I work closely alongside our local farms to set up farm operations, improve productivity, and overcome issues along the way. Getting to the root of food production is certainly something that I have found to be tremendously satisfying.
After all, farms play a big part in strengthening Singapore’s food security. I feel that this is a particularly important issue for us as a small country heavily reliant on food imports. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought food security issues to the forefront.
At the same time, the world has witnessed an increase in geopolitical tensions, as well as climate change that have impacted global food production and distribution. In light of such challenges, SFA has been supporting various food security initiatives such as the 30 by 30 goal, which seeks to build the capability and capacity of our agri-food industry to produce 30 per cent of our nation’s nutritional needs sustainably by 2030.
Working with Singapore’s farms
My work as an account manager is broad and diverse, but the objective is clear: We support farms to build their capabilities and uplift their productivity towards the 30 by 30 goal. This includes helping to keep farms updated on the initiatives and funds that they can tap on to enhance their operations. For example, farms can apply for SFA’s Agri-food Cluster Transformation (ACT) Fund to support the transformation of the agri-food sector into one that is highly productive, climate-resilient, and resource-efficient. Many farms have since tapped on the ACT fund to adopt technology and improve their productivity.
Besides funding, I help farms navigate regulatory requirements. This includes linking farms up with various resources to facilitate their set up and operations. One such resource that I have found useful in the course of my work is the Industry Guide for Land-based Farms, which was first introduced in October 2020. Developed in consultation with local farms, the guide helps both existing farmers as well as prospective new farmers better understand and navigate the regulatory requirements of setting up and operating farms in Singapore. It provides an overview of the procedures, requirements, roles of the various regulatory agencies, and even includes helpful tips for farms to consider throughout the entire process.
SFA recently extended the same guidance to sea-based farms, with the launch of the Industry Guide for Sea-based Farms in November 2022. It is another resource that sea-based farm account managers will definitely be sharing with their farm accounts. Resources such as these make the regulatory process clearer not only for existing farmers, but new ones whom I hope will be encouraged to join the industry.
The Industry Guides for land and sea-based farms provide an overview of the regulatory requirements, procedures, and information of the various documents, fees and timelines involved with setting up and operating a farm in Singapore.
Adding a personal touch
Ultimately, I believe our value as account managers is to add a personal and reassuring touch to the process. Building strong relationships where there is mutual trust and openness is key to our work. Account managers act as a bridge to bring all parties together to overcome issues and achieve our common goal. Farmers feel less intimidated when they know there is a real person they can connect with to assist them in navigating obstacles.
To share one such example: I recently assisted one of my farm accounts that was facing issues in meeting construction regulatory requirements to ensure the safety of farm users. To compound matters, supply disruptions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian-Ukraine War were resulting in delays to their timeline, as well as higher construction costs.
To tackle the issue and speed up the regulatory process, I tapped on the Regulations Workgroup (RWG) to troubleshoot and expedite where possible. I’m pleased to say that in the end, the farm was able to obtain all the necessary approvals and ensure the safety of its users.
Reaping the Harvest
At the end of the day, the most rewarding part of my job is seeing local farms succeed, be it in getting up and running, seeing their products on sale at stores, or simply being able to overcome issues in regulations and production. Knowing I played a part in getting us there gives me much joy.
Equally rewarding are the relationships that blossom over the course of my work. As with all food and relationships, it takes time for them to grow. The fruit of this, however, is sweet, seeing farmers warm up to me over time. This aspect of being able to work with our local food producers and adding a personal touch is something that I truly value about my job.
Interested in Setting Up a Farm in Singapore?
Remember to check out our:
- Industry Guide for Land-based Farms
- Industry Guide for Sea-based Farms
 Led by EnterpriseSG and SFA, the RWG comprises 14 agencies, including the Building and Construction Authority, Economic Development Board, Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, JTC Corporation, Land Transport Authority, National Environment Agency, National Parks Board, Public Utilities Board, Singapore Civil Defence Force, Singapore Land Authority, Urban Redevelopment Authority and Marine & Port Authority of Singapore
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Last updated on Tuesday, April 14, 2020