, Singapore

Singapore unveils transformation map for the farming sector

Minister Koh Poh Koon enumerates 4 key areas of transformation.

With the aim of helping Singapore farmers raise their production levels, Singapore has laid out the Farm Transformation Map which identifies four key areas for development.

In a speech by Minister Koh Poh Koon, one of the issues raised was the space constraints. The idea is to help produce food with less space using technology.

"Firstly, to overcome space constraints, we need to go upwards into the sky, downwards into the ocean and even inwards into our buildings.I have already spoken about Sky Greens and Apollo using vertical technology to grow more with less space. Even traditional farms like Kok Fah are using advanced greenhouses and irrigation systems to mitigate the effects of extreme weather changes on their crop growth," he said.

Citing another example, the minister noted how fish farms are growing seabass in deep underwater net cages and how farms are growing vegetables in climate-controlled, multi-tiered indoor spaces.

Secondly, the minister said there is a need for more innovation to optimise limited space and increase production yields.

"We need to pursue water and energy efficiency. We need to automate and integrate systems through robotics and sensors. We have to adapt our solutions to protect against climate change that affects the yields of crops. For instance, technologies like closed containment aquaculture systems can reduce the vulnerability of our coastal fish farms and their stocks to environmental risks," he explained.

Further, he noted, "Through technology, from my description, you will see that farming will begin to resemble an industrial production process, much like any other factory we have. It will also attract and excite a younger generation of tech-savvy Singaporeans to consider venturing into this industry seriously."

For this to happen, Mr Koh stated that it would require a knowledge-based workforce, wth modern farmers being appropriately called agri-technologist or agri-specialists.

"We will need a generation of “agri-specialists” with multi-disciplinary expertise. Farming will no longer just be about horticulture or aquaculture. It will no longer just be about toiling in the sun doing manual labour but also about engineering, info-comm technology, entrepreneurship and R&D. The interactions between these areas will generate ideas to transform the farming industry," he said.

And lastly, the minister said Singapore should grow its ecosystem by encouraging ancillary players, increasing demand for local produce and helping our farms to seek financing.

"In other words, it is about creating an active ecosystem, an environment where our farms can thrive. In this regard, the ICP pointed out that tight cash flows often limit the farmers from investing in more expensive technology. The current Agriculture Productivity Fund (APF) co-funds investments in technology but only on a reimbursement basis after the farmers have spent their own money. We have listened to the suggestions put forth by the ICP. Therefore, from April this year, the APF will disburse up to 30% of the approved funding quantum upfront, to facilitate the adoption of technology. This will complement our move to increase the tenure of farm lands to 20-year leases, from the previous 10 plus 10, based on industry feedback," he explained. 

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