Singapore’s Food Revolution

Singapore’s Food Revolution

Singapore, the tiny Southeast Asian city-state, is an unlikely place to transform farming.

With tiered fish farms, vegetable plots atop office buildings and lab-grown shrimp, the island aims to increase its own food production and rely less on imports to feed its 5.6 million people.

Singapore produces about 10% of its food, but it aims to raise that to 30% by 2030 under a plan known as 30-by-30.

The challenge is space. With only 1% of Singapore’s 724 square kilometers of land devoted to agriculture and production costs higher than the rest of Southeast Asia, the pressure is on new urban farmers to answer the government’s call to “grow more with less.”

“Whenever I talk about food security in Singapore, I tell folks don’t think land — think space. Because you can go upwards and sideways,” said Paul Teng, a professor specializing in agriculture at Nanyang Technological University.

Sustenir Agriculture is one of more than 30 vertical farms in Singapore, which has seen a doubling in so-called sky farms in three years.

The hydroponic farm grows nonnative varieties such as kale, cherry tomatoes and strawberries indoors under artificial lights and sells the produce to local supermarkets and online grocers.

Sustenir raised U.S. $16 million from backers, including Singapore state investor Temasek and Australia’s Grok Ventures in 2018, which will be used for an expansion in Singapore and opening in Hong Kong.

Temasek is also providing funds to Apollo Aquaculture Group, which is building a highly automated, eight-story fish farm. Apollo said the new farm will deliver more than a twentyfold increase in its annual output of 110 metric tons of fish.

Singapore has not given a total price tag for 30-by-30, first unveiled in March 2019, but it has various funding schemes. Aside from Temasek, the government has budgeted U.S. $106 million for research and development into food and U.S. $46 million for agriculture firms to use technology to boost productivity. It also plans to build an 18-hectare agri-food site for indoor plant factories and insect farms by mid-2021.  Reuters