(Originally published on SFA Facebook)
While we may not be able to be entirely self-sufficient when it comes to food, we can grow and harvest our own food right here in Singapore.
Just last year, our local farms produced about a quarter of the eggs, 14% of the leafy veggies and 10% of the fish we consumed. And we’re supporting our farms to do more. We’ve set a goal of ‘30 by 30’, that is to produce 30% of our nutritional needs locally by 2030.
All this however, didn’t just happen overnight or by chance. Click on the photos below to read on and hear from some of our officers who have been working hard to help bring this goal to fruition.
Growing food locally — one of our key strategies to ensure food security — is something we have been working on and investing in over the years.
More than just having a nice ring to its name, the ‘30 by 30’ goal charts the direction for our local agri-food industry to grow in capability to provide a substantial portion of Singapore’s nutritional needs. Local production will also help to reduce our reliance on imports, and provide a buffer if our food supply is disrupted.
This goal has given Thinesh Kumar, a manager in SFA’s Food Supply Strategies department, a clear direction to work towards when crafting some of SFA’s food supply policies.
“When developing policies, we start with the problem statement. Are there any gaps we can plug or opportunities to enhance our food resilience? With the ‘30 by 30’ goal, it’s quite clear for me — how can we increase local food production in Singapore?”
For example, beyond farming on land, Thinesh and his team are looking to unlock the potential of farming at sea. This includes studying the expansion of sustainable fish farming in the Southern waters of Singapore.
The team will also embark on a study to see how the larger Lim Chu Kang agriculture area can be planned and redeveloped to enhance food production while incorporating circularity concepts to ensure more efficient use of resources.
PIECING THE PIECES
The process of formulating a policy is no easy feat, and requires a lot of research and collaboration as Thinesh has found.
TOOL #1: RESEARCH
Coming from a research background, Thinesh finds joy in getting information from different parties and piecing them together.
“Some people may have the impression that those who are planning policies are detached from the ground, but a lot of ground work and research goes into crafting a policy. We partner our colleagues from different divisions, and also speak to stakeholders from both the public and private sector to hear their views. We also conduct field studies and go on site visits to get a better understanding of what we’re working with.
This process allows us to better appreciate the realities of our local farming scene, and guides us in crafting policies to help push our agri-food industry in the right direction forward.”
STRIKING A BALANCE
With many different stakeholders involved in each policy decision, the process has also reinforced the importance of collaboration for Thinesh. Sometimes, this means learning to take a step back and finding a middle ground.
TOOL #2: COLLABORATION
“The entire policy process is a collaborative one — we have to work closely with different parties to get different pieces of information. Sometimes, stakeholders may raise differing concerns or opinions. It’s important that we know how to handle these situations tactfully and come together to work out solutions.
For example, one area we had to consider when formulating one of our policies was how we could increase the productivity of our farms in an environmentally sustainable manner.”
In the case of fish farming in the Southern Waters, this meant working with nature groups, industry stakeholders and academics.
Thinesh helped to conduct an engagement session with relevant stakeholders to understand and address their concerns. The discussions also helped him to glean insights useful in shaping policies aimed at transforming the aquaculture sector and contributing towards our ‘30 by 30’ goal.
“It’s an interesting process meeting and talking to different people to hear what they think. It can get rather tedious, but it’s important for policy planning. It’s also satisfying to see the policy being planned, knowing that it will help shape Singapore’s food security when these plans are materialised in the long term.”
GROWING MORE WITH LESS
With the policy firmed up, the next step would be to set the plans into motion.
To meet the ‘30 by 30’ goal, the local agri-food industry would need to transform into one that is highly productive, sustainable and climate-resilient.
To encourage and support farmers to adopt technology, SFA has in place a $63 million Agriculture Productivity Fund (APF) which farmers can tap on.
Janice and Icelle, who help with administering the fund at SFA’s Industry Capability department, share what this entails.
TOOL #3: ATTENTION TO DETAIL
“When we receive an application for funding, we will first screen the proposals thoroughly to ensure that it contains all the information required for a thorough evaluation of its merit. To shorten the processing time, we also invite applicants down to present their proposals and share with us their ideas,” said Icelle.
Janice added: “Once a farm is awarded co-funding support, it will send in claims for reimbursement. Claim reimbursement is not as simple as it sounds. Sometimes, a single claim can contain up to 100 invoices. Knowing the importance of the funding support for our farms, we do our best to promptly process the claims.”
Beyond reviewing proposals and handling financial claims, both Janice and Icelle also make frequent trips to farms which have been awarded funding.
“We visit these farms to verify that they have bought the equipment listed in their proposal, and also conduct audits,” shared Icelle.
(from top): ECO-ARK, one of the world’s first purpose-built floating closed-containment fish farm; Janice at ECO-ARK
For Janice and Icelle, satisfaction comes in the form of facilitating farms to set up high-tech and productive farming systems, and seeing the farms contribute towards Singapore’s food security.
As of March this year, over 100 farms have benefitted under the APF.
“One of them is ECO-ARK, one of the world’s first purpose-built floating closed-containment fish farm, which tapped on the APF to develop its Offshore & Marine Technology with Recirculating Aquaculture System. The system allows the farm to treat seawater, kill pathogens and reduce its vulnerability to external conditions.
It was quite impressive seeing the farm put together the entire set-up. By leveraging on technology, the farm may be able to produce more than 20 times higher than the minimum production level set for Singapore coastal fish farms today, and is environmentally sustainable,” said Icelle.
The investment in technology and innovation for local food production has paid off so far.
As of end December last year, farms that were funded by the APF had cumulatively increased the production of food fish by more than 500 tonnes, among others. This amounted to about 11% of the total amount of food fish produced locally last year!
(clockwise from right): Icelle at ECO-ARK; Kok Fah and ECO-ARK, both of which have tapped on the APF
GROWING MORE, FASTER
This year, in view of the COVID-19 circumstances, the Government is committing even more resources to help farms ramp up their production and accelerate our efforts towards our ‘30 by 30’ goal.
“We’ve recently launched a grant call for the ‘30x30 Express’ grant which will be providing $30 million of funding support for the industry to expand their production capabilities. This will help farms to defray some of their building and infrastructure costs, and ramp up their production quickly,” shared Janice.
The increase in local production however, has to be coupled by demand from consumers.
“Our support can help encourage our farmers to up productivity, but demand is also an important factor. When there is a higher demand for local produce, this will spur our farmers to adopt technology and become more productive. So consumers may not realise this, but they do play an important role in helping us reach our ‘30 by 30’ goal!” she added.
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© 2020 Singapore Food Agency
Last updated on Tuesday, April 14, 2020