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  • Writer's pictureNicholas Chew

Introducing... Singapore's local farms!

"In the future, farmers will be the ones driving the Lamborghinis," - Agriculture investor, Jim Rogers

That is a statement to behold, especially in this day and age. It is still a pity that many individuals see farming as blue-collared jobs that will never sustain a 'great' life. Well, times have changed. Soon, farming will become one of Singapore's most popular job scopes, with tons of support coming along the way. Today, we will be giving you a sneak peek on what local farming has in store for us.

For starters, let’s see what our government is planning to do for this industry. According to the Singapore Food Agency, The Government of Singapore plans to provide huge financial aid to the agricultural industry, summing up to a whopping $63 million! As Singapore sets to produce 30% of our food locally by 2030, we can expect to see more support in the following decade. Some examples will include educational programmes (e.g. degrees and diplomas in urban agriculture), job scopes in the industry and even more financial schemes.

Now that you know a little more about the farming scene in Singapore, let's dive in and answer some FAQs about the future of local farming.

Singapore doesn’t struggle to acquire food resources, so why do we need local farms?

Just this year, we have seen what the impact of this pandemic could do to the world. Singapore being a country that imports 90% of its food supplies, faced higher risks as compared to other countries. Just to name a few setbacks, local supermarkets like NTUC and Giant suffered huge shortages in food supplies. The ‘lockdown’ in 2020 sparked a long run of panic buying, where people stocked up tons of food items. This act of selfishness left nothing for other fellow Singaporeans and their families.

This is also where our food supplies get affected, as it became incredibly hard for supermarkets and retailers to replenish their stocks quickly. Global supply chains were disrupted, which also added to delays in shipments.

If another global disease hits, I'm pretty sure we would be the first to perish. Thankfully, although we were able to persevere through the hardships of Covid-19, this serves as our wake-up call.

Source: The Straits Times
Co-founder of Citiponics, Danielle Chan, embracing her locally grown veggies. (Source: The Straits Times)

By implementing the attributes of local farms, we can see how our share in the global food market is made more secure. In other words, we don't have to rely solely on other countries for resources. This can be derived through the "30 by 30" campaign set by The Government of Singapore, giving us a vision of how much food we can generate independently.

To summarise this initiative, Singapore is planning to produce 30% of our nutritional needs by the year 2030. Perhaps, self-reliance and food security don't have to remain as pipe dreams for Singapore any longer!

Okay, that sounds good, but does Singapore have ample space to build these farms?

Source: The Business Times
Owners of Upgrown Farming, one of Singapore's renowned vertical farms (Source: The Business Times)

Many may wonder, how does one of the smallest countries on Earth have enough land to build farms? Since Singapore comprises of an enormous population but little land to spare, there is only one thing left to do - expand upwards! We can see this through the high-rise residential estates (HDBs, condominiums etc.) in our country. By applying the same concept, Singapore has begun a fresh notion, vertical farms.

So, what are vertical farms? I’m glad you asked. Vertical farming varies from the usual practice of conventional farming, as it uses vertically inclined surfaces to produce food. This method grows plants and vegetables in stacked layers, commonly integrated into structures like skyscrapers and repurposed warehouses.

Source: Today Online
The use of agri-tech to grow super-food, without the presence of soil (Source: Today Online)

What makes these vertical farms even better is the technology imbued with it. This fusion of modernized technology and agriculture forms a phenomenon known as "Agri-tech". Based on the Singapore Food Agency, these farms can yield crop up to 10 times more than conventional farms. Just imagine, like seriously imagine, our supermarkets expanding to the size of a football field to manage all that food.

Alright, local farming seems impressive, but who will be the ones farming in Singapore?

Source: Citiponics
Teaching the next generation of youth about the attributes of local farming (Source: Citiponics)

As Singapore sets to accomplish the "30 by 30" goal, there are also plans to raise the next generation of experts. The Environment and Water Resources Ministry (MEWR) states the value of developing local talent that has a passion for the art of agriculture. This "home" element of building urban farms won't quite be fulfilled without local farmers, to begin with. Hence, Singapore plans to create learning programs that introduce more job opportunities in the agricultural industry.

By supporting this move, SFA arranged to partner with local universities, planning educational courses such as “Skills Future” and “Learn Programmes”. For example, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) worked with Republic Polytechnic to launch Earn and Learn programmes revolving around local farming.

Source: Republic Polytechnic
Singapore's first polytechnic course teaching urban agriculture (Source: Republic Polytechnic)

Just last year (January 2019), Republic poly introduced Singapore’s first full-qualification course in urban agriculture. This track aims to teach a variety of commonly used methods in local farming, such as hydroponics, soil-based, and organic systems. A great way to kick things off, these programmes will eventually lead to more Diplomas/Degrees in Urban Agriculture, giving birth to a new generation of local farmers.

In conclusion

We hope that this article gives you a deeper insight into the exciting new world of urban farming. This blog post marks the beginning of a 3-part series, to talk about the prospects and future of Singapore’s local farms! Stay tuned and have a blessed day.

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