SINGAPORE: The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) has set the target of producing 30 per cent of Singapore’s nutritional needs by 2030, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli announced on Thursday (Mar 7) in a move targeted at improving food security.
“Singapore is also exposed to the volatilities of the global food market, because we import over 90 per cent of our food supply,” Mr Masagos said in his Committee of Supply speech in Parliament. These volatilities include sudden disruptions to transport routes, export bans and the impacts of climate change.
According to the Health Promotion Board, Singapore’s nutritional needs comprise 50 per cent fruits and vegetables, 25 per cent proteins and 25 per cent staples.
The target is to produce 20 per cent of these fruit and vegetables, as well as 10 per cent of these proteins – from sources like meat and fish – locally. Singapore currently produces less than 10 per cent of its nutritional needs locally.
“To get to the ‘30 by 30 vision’, will require our agri-food industry to adopt new solutions to raise productivity, apply R&D, strengthen climate resilience, and overcome our resource constraints,” Mr Masagos said.
The Environment and Water Resources Ministry (MEWR) laid out four ways the target can be achieved: Using technology to grow more with less, unlocking physical spaces for farming, developing local talent and getting consumers to support local.
USING TECHNOLOGY TO GROW MORE WITH LESS
MEWR said the use of technology in farming allows the development of resource-efficient, climate-resilient and high-yield agricultural solutions.
In addition, the ministry will expand further in high-tech, controlled environment local production, and prioritise environmental sustainability of food production.
“We need to raise land productivity, pursue water and energy efficiency, and automate and integrate systems through robotics and sensors,” MEWR said. “We have to adapt our solutions to protect against climate change that affects the yields of crops.”
MEWR said SFA will continue to support farmers through building capability, providing technical support and encouraging technology transfer.
In 2017, local farmers travelled abroad to learn about best practices and new technology from high-tech vegetable farms in China and an aquaculture technology exhibition in Norway.
Farms can also continue to tap the S$63 million Agriculture Productivity Fund to co-fund systems that better control environmental variables and boost production capabilities, MEWR added.
These include systems that shade crops and minimise the negative impact of high temperatures on crop growth.
UNLOCKING PHYSICAL SPACES FOR FARMING
Beyond technology, MEWR said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has been looking to unlock more spaces to grow food locally, including underutilised or alternative spaces like vacant state buildings, rooftops and the deep sea.
“Land in Singapore is scarce and has many competing users,” MEWR said, noting that less than 1 per cent of land is currently used for agricultural food production. “It is essential that our local farmers optimise production and intensify agriculture land use.”
For instance, MEWR said urban farming in alternative spaces provides food for nearby communities, while allowing the public to be directly involved with food production.
Besides land-based farming, the ministry said it will put “equal emphasis” on productive and sustainable fish farming, with the longer-term goal of developing Singapore into a hub for tropical aquaculture technologies.
It announced that SFA will work with agencies to open up more sites for deep sea farming, adding that this type of farming can contribute “significantly” to local production due to its high productivity.
For example, Barramundi Asia – a farm the size of 10 football fields located off Pulau Semakau – produces more than 400 tonnes of Asian sea bass annually.
DEVELOPING LOCAL TALENT
As for the farmers themselves, MEWR said there is a need to develop local talent who understand urban food production processes and business models, and are experts in multiple fields like the sciences, engineering as well as energy and waste management.
With that, it said SFA will partner with universities for undergraduate and post-graduate programmes to groom agri- and aqua-technologists and culturists, urban farming specialists and researchers to meet future needs.
“This would create a career progression pathway to attract young talent into the industry,” it added.
MEWR said SFA will also continue to engage Institutes of Higher Learning to develop relevant programmes to meet industry demand.
For instance, AVA had worked with Republic Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic to launch Earn and Learn programmes that lead to diplomas in Urban Agricultural Technology, and Aquaculture, respectively.
GETTING CONSUMERS TO SUPPORT LOCAL
Nevertheless, MEWR said consumers have a part to play by “actively supporting local produce”.
“Choosing local produce will help to support businesses of our local farmers and spur our farms to embrace technology and become more productive to meet the increased demand,” it added, noting that local produce is safe and often fresher.
The ministry said it has rolled out public education initiatives to promote local produce and encourage consumers to choose local, like partnering supermarkets to organise local produce fairs and making local produce easier to identify.
“With more outreach initiatives and media publicity in recent years, we have observed that the public is more open to local produce,” it stated.
Despite the measures, Mr Masagos acknowledged that the target is an “ambitious multi-fold increase to our current production”.
“Our aspiration is to make Singapore an agri-food hub which exports sustainable solutions,” MEWR said. “The transformation of our food production industry will create new opportunities for employment and enterprises.”