International

Singapore eyes a farming revolution

Kale grown at an indoor farm are being packed for delivery in Singapore.

Kale grown at an indoor farm are being packed for delivery in Singapore.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

It wants to be food secure as climate change, population growth threatens global supply

Singapore, the tiny Southeast Asian city-state, is an unlikely place for a farming revolution.

With tiered fish farms, vegetable plots atop office buildings and lab-grown shrimp, the island aims to beef up its own food production and rely less on imports to feed its 5.6 million people.

Space a challenge

Singapore produces about 10% of its food but as climate change and population growth threatens global food supplies, it aims to raise that to 30% by 2030 under a plan known as ‘30-by-30’.

The challenge is space.

With only 1% of Singapore’s 724 sq km land area devoted to agriculture and production costs higher than the rest of Southeast Asia, the pressure is on new urban farmers to answer the government’s call to “grow more with less”.

“Whenever I talk about food security in Singapore, I tell folks don’t think land — think space. Because you can go upwards and sideways,” said Paul Teng, a professor specialising in agriculture at Nanyang Technological University.

Sustenir Agriculture is one of more than 30 vertical farms in Singapore, which has seen a doubling in so-called sky farms in three years.

The hydroponic farm grows non-native varieties like kale, cherry tomatoes and strawberries indoors under artificial lights and sells the produce to local supermarkets and online grocers.

Sustenir raised $16 million from backers, including Singapore state investor Temasek and Australia’s Grok Ventures last year, which will be used for an expansion in Singapore and opening in Hong Kong.

Temasek is also providing funds to Apollo Aquaculture Group which is building a S$70 million highly-automated, eight-storey fish farm.

Apollo says the new farm will deliver more than a twenty-fold increase in its annual output of 110 tonnes of fish. “It is too unpredictable to do things now in the traditional way,” said Apollo CEO Eric Ng, citing problems with algae blooms in recent years that have wiped out farmers’ fish stocks.

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Printable version | Mar 27, 2020 1:14:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/singapore-eyes-a-farming-revolution/article27356001.ece

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