New food farming federation to tackle manpower, productivity challenges

New food farming federation to tackle manpower, productivity challenges

A food farming federation was formed on Wednesday (Oct 25) to address key challenges faced by the industry brought about by resource constraints and the current push for productivity.

SINGAPORE: A food farming federation was formed on Wednesday (Oct 25) to address key challenges faced by the industry brought about by resource constraints and the current push for productivity. 

Started by several members of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's (AVA) food farming industry consultation panel, the Singapore Agro-food Enterprises Federation aims to promote the sector and is the first industry-wide initiative to bring farmers together on a single platform, said Mr Frank Tan, founding member of the federation and managing director of Marine Life Aquaculture.

Mr Tan said the new body’s immediate priorities include developing safety standards and guidelines for sustainable farming practices. It will also work on raising productivity, as well as building farming and manpower capabilities.

For example, the federation will look into pooling together resources and technology to be shared among the farmers, which could lower operating costs. Using waste from livestock farms as organic fertiliser for vegetable farming is one possibility, Mr Tan said.

The federation will also help to facilitate overseas study trips so farmers can learn and potentially adopt smart farming solutions, as well as hold sessions for the sharing of best practices.

Raising awareness of local produce among consumers will be a key aim as well, such as by working with AVA to bring farmers' markets to different parts of Singapore starting next year.

“At this point all the farmers are reaching out to customers on their own,” said Mr Tan. “We want to do an outreach programme that is unified to help identify us.”

Mr Tan said the timing of the federation is "very good" as the industry "has come to an establishment".

“Most of the large-scale farmers can produce in a very consistent way. It’s a good time where all the segments - the eggs, vegetable and food fish - come together to join and form this federation.”

The organisation will work with government agencies to implement initiatives and suggestions raised during the industry consultation panel, Mr Tan said. It will also seek to partner with research institutions, institutes of higher learning and venture capitalists to help boost the sector.

WHOLE ECOSYSTEM NEEDS TO CHIP IN

Besides Marine Life Aquaculture, the federation's founding members include Kok Fah Technology Farm and Chew's Agriculture. Heading the organisation as chairman is the current emeritus president of the Singapore Manufacturing Federation George Huang.
Twenty more farms have pledged to join the not-for-profit organisation, including all three egg farms. In terms of output, the farms capture the entire local egg market share, around 70 per cent of fish meant for eating and 50 per cent of vegetables consumed locally.

There are currently around 200 food farms in Singapore.

According to the federation, membership will be opened to all licensed food farmers. Community farmers and individuals from institutes of higher learning can also join as associate members.

“I’m very happy to see the farmers themselves are taking this step to come together to work together to push for more advancements and transformation within the industry,” said Senior Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon, who serves as patron for the federation.

“It takes the whole ecosystem - not just farmers but also the entire value chain, such as the institutes of higher learning as well as people in the marketing and retail space,” said Dr Koh, speaking on the sidelines of a site visit to high-tech vertical farm Sustenir on Thursday.

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