There is more to farming than meets the eye. It requires innovation, technology and passion as Cliff Tham from SFA’s Agri-Food Technology & Food Innovation department will tell you.
(Originally published on SFA Facebook)
An Assistant Director of the Urban Food Solutions division, he has worked with farmers, solution providers and industry partners to boost our local farming scene, including setting up the first commercial rooftop farm on a multi-storey carpark in the heartlands.
None of this are by any means an easy feat – read on to find out what are the 3 ‘P’s he relies on in his daily work.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND FARMING
A large part of Cliff’s job involves working on projects to drive the development of technologies and innovations for urban agriculture and food technology to bolster our food security.
Together with his team, Cliff studies and experiments with different types of growing methods and technologies that could improve farming processes.
This technical expertise can then be transferred to farmers to support and help them innovate and enhance their productivity.
FARMING FOR THE LONG HAUL
Cliff shares that a misconception many have is that farming is easy.
“Some think that their vegetables and plants will grow nicely as long as they’ve added fertiliser and water. It’s not so simple though.”
As Cliff reveals, there is a lot more thought and effort that goes into ensuring vegetables are able to grow well.
Factors such as how much water is given to the vegetables, where the water is from, as well as how and when the fertiliser is applied are often overlooked, but are important in the growing process. Farmers also have to adapt to different climate conditions and manage pest and disease issues that may affect their farms.
For Cliff, these misconceptions are an opportunity to educate the public on what farming really means.
“When we explain to consumers and share with them about the ‘farm to fork’ process, they will be able to have a better understanding of the hard work and effort behind producing food. This in turn, encourages them not to waste food.”
TOOL #1 – PATIENCE
In farming, there may not always be an obvious or immediate answer to how different types of crops should be grown under various conditions.
Often, Cliff and his team have to experiment and go through several rounds of tests to find the optimum condition to grow different types of crops.
As Cliff has learned after various iterations, food compost has to be combined with soil at a particular ratio to allow plants to grow at an optimum condition. This combination of food compost and soil also works better for growing herbs, as compared to other crops such as ‘xiao bai cai’ or tomatoes.
“There is no shortcut to farming – you need to have some knowledge and do some research on what you want to grow, make mistakes and learn along the way.”
SOWING THE SEEDS OF GROWTH
Cliff’s role can be described as an agri-food tech expert, collaborator and educator rolled into one.
TOOL #2 – PARTNERSHIP
Beyond sharing with farmers the technical expertise gleaned from various tests and R&D, he also works with Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) on ideas and solutions that can benefit the farming industry.
“Through collaboration with the industry and institutions, we can work with them to co-create new technologies and innovations that can help farmers boost their productivity.
Through these partnerships, students also get hands-on opportunities to brainstorm and work with the farmers to innovate and come up with solutions. This helps in building skills and interest in the younger generation, as we will also need a pipeline of local talent to grow and support our agri-food sector.”
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Last updated on Tuesday, April 14, 2020