Read more to learn more about the people involved in Sustainability @ Tampines Park, Singapore’s first circular ecosystem for sustainable food production.
From left: Joel Lee from Netatech; Poh Bee Ling, Cliff Tham and Joyce Lim from SFA
If things go swimmingly, residents of Tampines will soon be eating fish and vegetables farmed at their doorstep, bought at a discount from contributing food waste.
This is the idea behind Sustainability @ Tampines Park, a pilot that involved multiple stakeholders such as local farms, the Town Council and government agencies, to set up and manage.
In this second-parter of this month’s #ToolsoftheTrade feature, we had a chat with Joel Lee from Netatech and the SFA team to learn more about how they are involved and their tools of the trade to make the pilot a success!
Hi everyone! Share with us what you do and your involvement in Sustainability @ Tampines Park.
Joel explaining how the vertical high-tech farm works
I also experiment with R&D for new crops we are trying to grow in alternative spaces and on our farm at Lim Chu Kang. At Sustainability @ Tampines Park, we helped set up the vertical high-tech farm at the side of Blk 146 Tampines Ave 5.
Poh Bee Ling, Cliff Tham, Joyce Lim: Hi everyone! We are the team in SFA involved in Sustainability @ Tampines Park.
We are from different departments but came together to work on the pilot. Bee Ling oversees the development while Cliff and Joyce bring together different stakeholders to work on the project.
Can you explain more about your project/work? What is its significance in the entire pilot?
The vertical high-tech farm grows greens such as red bayam and nai bai
One of the innovations used in the farm is the state-of-the-art fertigation and micro-drip technology designed by Netatech. Using harvested rainwater, it provides crops with the precise amount of water needed to grow.
Other innovations include cloud computing, microclimate sensors, nanofilm technology, and robotics to maximise crop yields.
Bee Ling: This pilot is the first of its kind to integrate a food fish farm, a black soldier fly (BSF) facility and an innovative vertical façade farm within a community space. It demonstrates the circularity of sustainable food production and will be a significant milestone and a model for other neighbourhoods if it’s successful.
How does the pilot help enhance food security?
Bee Ling: It helps mobilise the community to contribute to our ’30 by 30’ goal in small actionable steps. It can be as simple as contributing food waste, and using the app to buy the produce at a discounted rate.
Joyce: The pilot brings food production into the community. It will give residents a better appreciation of how food, technology and community efforts can be integrated into one circular ecosystem.
What are other initiatives can we look forward to from Netatech?
In the pipeline for Netatech - building more farms in alternative spaces and growing more leafy greens for Singapore
Joel: The short term goal is to build more vertical high-tech farms in alternative spaces. The long-term goal is to incorporate farms into the building plan from the onset. This is to eliminate the use of scaffolding and make growing food in such spaces a normality.
We are also looking to ramp up our production and grow more veggies that residents can eat, especially leafy greens!
Tell us some of the tools of the trade you use in your course of work.
Technology is used to ensure vegetables grow at their optimal condition. One of the tools used is a light meter to provide readings on how much light comes into the farm.
Joel: Our technology. We grow vegetables based on science and use the data to guide our actions. It’s not just a visual thing, like ‘oh my plants look healthy, it should be growing well!’ For example, we have tools to measure soil moisture and PH (acidity of soil) as well as light meter that can tell us how much light comes into our farm.
But farming is also an art. Creativity is needed to experiment new ways and places to grow our veggies. For example, Singapore’s climate may not be suitable for certain crops but it’s possible in a controlled environment. And who would have thought to grow edible greens at the side of a HDB block?
Bee Ling: Mainly our phones and messaging platforms to communicate with stakeholders (agencies, town council, residents’ network, farms etc.)
Cliff: As this is a pilot, having an open mindset and being flexible is important as well. There is no fixed way to do things.
SFA team, which station (tilapia fish farm, BSF facility, vertical high-tech farm) is your favourite? Why?
While it’s hard to choose a favourite among the 3 stations, Cliff thought that the BSF facility was the most interesting.
Bee Ling – It’s difficult to choose. It’s like trying to pick your favourite child.
Joyce: I like all three and how they come together to form a close loop. As Singapore is resource scarce, we should upcycle our waste and turn trash to treasure wherever possible.
Cliff: The BSF facility is my favourite as we can see the larvae actively consuming food waste and pooping! 💩
What do you hope the residents/public will learn from the pilot?
Joel giving frass (poop) from the black soldier fly larvae as fertiliser to the vegetables
Joel: I hope that residents will be able to understand and be more aware of our efforts to enhance food security. It’s not just something we talk about in the news – it’s happening in your neighbourhood.
Joyce: I hope they will appreciate that food on the table does not come easy. It takes time for food to be grown (over a month for vegetables and several months for fish) and a lot of care and effort are required to ensure the food is safe for consumption as well.
Cliff: I hope that the public can come to understand that farming is no longer as back-breaking or labour-intensive. Technology can help to alleviate some of the manual work and most importantly, it does not have to be land-based.
Food for Thought is a digital publication by
© 2022 Singapore Food Agency
Last updated on Tuesday, April 14, 2020