More help for local farmers to improve productivity with technology: Koh Poh Koon

More help for local farmers to improve productivity with technology: Koh Poh Koon

SINGAPORE: To better support the agriculture industry in improving productivity, Senior Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon said that the Agriculture Productivity Fund (APF) will be enhanced.

"Many farmers have told us that they are happy to adopt more productive technology. However, new farming systems require heavy capital investments. Advanced greenhouse systems with environmental controls and automation, which can double their production can cause around S$4 million," he said. 

The funding cap for projects under the Productivity Enhancement (PE) scheme will be increased from S$700,000 to S$2,000,000. 

The PE will also include a new test-bedding fund which will allow farmers to test new technology and run trials before committing at a commercial scale, with a funding cap of S$500,000 for food farms that want to try new solutions. 

Under the new APF scheme, the categories of farms have also been tweaked. 

Farm categories have been streamlined from three to two. Farms under Category 1 will remain the same, which includes commonly consumed items like hen and quail eggs, leafy vegetables, bean sprouts and food fish. 

Farms under Category 2 will now include all other types of farms, such as ornamental fish farms to mushroom farms. 

Dr Koh also gave an update on APF applicants since launch in 2014. As of end February, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority has received 140 applications for the APF. Of those, 105 projects from 68 farms have been approved with about S$12 million committed so far.

Applications for the enhanced APF will be accepted from May 1. 

TRAINING A SINGAPOREAN WORKFORCE 

Under a new "Earn and Learn" work-study programme, ITE graduates will join Temasek Polytechnic to undergo a one-year programme to train at aquaculture farms, Dr Koh announced. 

"It will provide a talent pipeline to ensure our farms have skilled manpower to undertake transformation and innovation. ... I hope that our farmers will take this opportunity to create a positive learning experience for the graduates. This will encourage our young talent to enter and stay in the industry," said Dr Koh.

The students will undergo training in aquaculture skills with a focus on high density urban farming. It will include knowledge areas such as nutrition and feed, disease management, and husbandry and breeding.

Currently, eight ITE graduates have submitted their applications to the programme. The starting salary for ITE graduates undergoing this programme is between S$1,200 and S$1,600.

Source: CNA/fs

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