Reaping rewards: Vertical crab farming and high-tech vegetables in Singapore

Reaping rewards: Vertical crab farming and high-tech vegetables in Singapore

Local food producers are quietly leading the way in transforming cultivation methods, even though Singapore imports more than 90 per cent of its food.

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SINGAPORE: Local food producers are quietly leading the way in transforming cultivation methods, even though Singapore imports more than 90 per cent of its food.

They are turning to technology to help overcome land constraints, and industry experts said this is also helping to improve food quality standards here.

You might have heard of vertical farming for vegetables but how about that for crabs? How some food producers are innovating to get around Singapore's land constraints. Reporter Nicole Tan has the story on Singapore Tonight at 10pm.

Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Friday, 11 December 2015


At Gills ‘N’ Claws Aquaculture, a single vertical farming structure can house 1,000 crabs compared to just 30 in the same area, using traditional methods. At full capacity, the farm can cultivate 40,000 crabs at one go and produce about 200 tonnes of crabs every year.

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Vertical farming structures housing crabs. (Photo: Nicole Tan)

Each crab is hatched in Sri Lanka, and when they are about four months old, they are brought to Singapore, weighing about 400g. After about seven weeks, they weigh up to 1 kg - and they are ready for sale.

The company took more than two years to develop this technology, and it said it can price its crabs up to 30 per cent cheaper than its competitors.

Said Mr Steven Suresh, CEO of RBI Holding: "We can sea freight all our crabs, we have special containers designed to sea freight them to Singapore. They reach here in about five to six days, then they come to our farm and we fatten them there. (With) air freight, for 1 kg of crab, you pay about S$3.50 to S$4. (With) sea freight you pay S$0.20, or less than S$0.20 (per kilogram). So – (you will find) major savings.”

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Workers at Gills 'N' Claws Aquaculture tying up a crab. (Photo: Nicole Tan)

Gills 'N' Claws Aquaculture is among a growing number of food producers in Singapore finding innovative ways to farm to cope with land constraints.

Industry experts said other countries are hoping to take a leaf out of Singapore's book, not just in the use of technology, but in terms of food security and safety standards.

Said Mr Christopher Vas, academic director at Murdoch University: "It's starting to play a leadership role insofar as being able to produce top-quality products which, at the same time, meet very stringent standards. As far as the region is concerned, that's where a lot of countries like China and India are looking at what Singapore's doing."

In Singapore, Japanese electronics giant Panasonic grows more than 30 types of vegetables and herbs. With its technology know-how it has created a controlled environment that ensures food quality and safety, and cut overall cultivation time by up to half.

Panasonic has a prototype hyperspectral imaging (HSI) system, which allows the quality of the crops to be monitored throughout the cultivation process. It translates to a 20 to 30 per cent improvement in success rate during harvesting.

“(The) indoor farm is a controlled soil cultivation environment, where we control the lighting, the temperature, as well as carbon dioxide, plus the humidity. With our cultivation technology we're confident (that with) this environment, we can meet the high standards of Singapore food security,” said Mr Alfred Tham, manager, Agriculture Business Unit, Panasonic Factory Solutions.

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Salad produced by Panasonic. (Photo: Nicole Tan)

Its farm currently produces 81 tonnes of vegetables a year. By 2017, it aims to produce 1,000 tonnes of vegetables, or 5 per cent of local production. Panasonic has recently started selling salad to consumers.

Source: CNA/dl

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