High-Tech Farming in Singapore

May 9, 2017

Some of you may have read about local fish farm Apollo Aquaculture opening a new high-tech joint venture farm in Brunei a few months ago. This helps to reduce the risk of supply disruptions by diversifying our food sources.

Another way to enhance our food security is to grow our food locally. Our farms are an important source of vegetables, eggs and fish. Local production provides a buffer against overseas food supply disruptions.

Given our limited space, we will not be able to produce all the food we need. However, new farming technologies allow us to significantly boost our production levels. Not only will this provide us with more locally grown food, it will also help our farmers scale up their businesses.

The Government will do more to help farmers adopt these new technologies. Some have already come on board.

For example, Yili farm is using taller growing houses and semi-automated curtain systems for better ventilation and temperature control. They have also installed curved plastic roofs to protect against the elements.

Yili’s vegetables are now growing better and harvesting losses have been reduced. Farm worker productivity has also increased as they can now work in the growing houses even during hot afternoons.

Another example is coastal fish farm, Marine Life Aquaculture (MLA). Previously, MLA needed over a week to manually transfer 100,000 fish fingerlings using plastic containers from their land-based nursery on Pulau Ketam to sea-cages 100 metres away.

MLA knew that there was a better way so they invested in a live fish pump. The same task can now be done in a day! Using a scanner with imaging technology, MLA is even able to track and count the number of fingerlings automatically during this process.

A modern agriculture sector will continue to play a key role in Singapore’s future, even as our economy evolves and our society becomes more urbanised.

This is why we have set aside new plots of farm land in Singapore for productive and high-tech farming.

These plots will be tendered out with longer 20 year leases, compared to the earlier blocks of 10 years announced previously. This follows from feedback we’ve received from farmers that they needed a longer period to recover the investments for new technologies. Furthermore, in assessing the proposals for these new farm plots, we will place greater emphasis on quality and productivity considerations.

AVA will release more details on the farm land tenders soon.

We hope both existing and new farmers will participate, and work with us on this journey to transform our farms.

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Continue the Tradition; Build the Future

October 1, 2015

ContinueTheTradition_header

I’ve just started work at MND.

Boon Wan has done an excellent job in achieving a soft landing for the housing market. But the job is not done. I will continue the work, and I hope Singaporeans will give me suggestions and feedback so we can be even better.

Housing, in particular HDB homes, will always be close to the hearts of Singaporeans.  Even as we address immediate needs, we will be confronted with new demands and challenges.  Providing quality and affordable homes remain a key priority. Improving our HDB towns built in the 70s and 80s to meet changing needs will also be my focus, so that Singapore remains an endearing home for everyone, always.

MND is not just about housing. It also touches on many aspects of Singaporeans lives – be it food, animals, construction, conservation, green spaces or physical landscape.

One thing that MND has always done is to work closely with its stakeholders. That’s something I’ve done regularly in MCCY, and it’s certainly a practice I’d like to continue at MND.

JurongLakeGardensExhibitI had a first-hand experience of how much we can achieve together as a community in July this year, when the Singapore Botanic Gardens was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The successful inscription was the result of the collective efforts of experts and community groups who gave their suggestions and support.

Another exciting MND project is the Jurong Lake District. We have been gathering ideas and feedback extensively to shape the area into a vibrant live-work-play destination.

We will continue to talk to many more Singaporeans in this and other projects.

In the immediate term, my priority is to see through the successful implementation of the 2-Room Flexi scheme and recent policy changes (which will take effect for the November BTO exercise). Work has also started on the Fresh Start Housing Scheme. We will announce the details in due course so that families with young children in rental flats can become home owners again.

I will continue the tradition of listening, consulting and engaging all stakeholders. And I will also keep this blog alive as a way to reach out to everyone.

I invite you to join me on this journey – to make our city more liveable, to make our homes more endearing, and to make our future more vibrant and secure.

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5th in food security: Not Bad

September 30, 2014

Food security remains a global challenge.  How countries fare are regularly tracked.  For example, the Economist Intelligence Unit publishes its annual Global Food Security Index (GFSI) covering 109 countries around the world. GFSI measures three key areas: i) Availability, ii) Affordability and iii) Quality and Safety of food.

Singapore’s challenges are especially acute as we are inevitably highly reliant on food imports. But challenges can be addressed with sound policies and practical strategies. Despite our handicap, we can still ensure that food is available, safe, nutritious and affordable for all.

We have been tracking our progress on the GFSI score.  Last year, Singapore ranked 16th.  This year, we came up 5th.

Moving up 11 notches on the GFSI for a tiny city state without much agricultural land is no mean feat.

Although we import over 90% of our food, we support some local production to play a useful complementary role. Last month, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) launched a $63 million Agriculture Productivity Fund to help our local farmers boost yields and raise productivity.  Our ambition is for our local farms to, over time, transform into a high tech and progressive one.

The improvement in our GFSI ranking was mostly due to (a) stability in our local production, (b) sufficiency of supply, and (c) having a nutrition plan in place.

We have also scored well in the new indicator for food loss. Our programmes and R&D projects to reduce food losses in the early stages of food production, which include post-harvest handling techniques, cold chain management, and conversion of food manufacturing waste, have been notable.  Meanwhile, we must press on with reducing general food wastage among consumers.

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An OIE Recognition of Excellence

July 1, 2014

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has endorsed VPHC as Southeast Asia’s first OIE Collaborating Centre for Food Safety, serving the Asia and Oceania region.

Picture1bVPHC (Veterinary Public Health Centre) is the cornerstone of AVA’s integrated food safety programme. VPHC laboratories conduct stringent food safety tests on food products, and comprise a multi-disciplinary team of professionals and scientists who provide a comprehensive range of analytical services.

From its humble beginnings in the 1970s as a basic meat testing laboratory, VPHC has over the years grown to be a state-of-the-art facility in Lim Chu Kang. The OIE recognition is an important milestone.

Food safety is of paramount importance to our people. With food imports coming in from countries all over the world, cross-border checks are critical to ensuring that our food supply is safe. AVA and VPHC play a crucial role.

With the support of VPHC as an OIE Collaborating Centre, AVA will be in a better position to keep abreast of emerging challenges in food safety, and new developments in international standards and regulations. AVA will also have the opportunity to extend its technical expertise, comprehensive laboratory testing services and training programmes to the region. This will enhance the overall food safety in the region, a source of many of our food imports.

The OIE recognition comes in time of VPHC’s 10th anniversary in Lim Chu Kang this year.

Congratulations, AVA and VPHC!

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To the Farmers’ Market

April 5, 2014

to the farmers market

We now have hundreds of community gardens, where volunteers bond and take part in a meaningful hobby. I told AVA that we should help those community gardens which want to increase the yield or “professionalise” their hobby through injecting our expertise. They have proceeded to do so in Woodlands, helping the volunteers upgrade their community gardens into “model vegetable gardens”.

Photo 1

Much to the delight of the volunteers, these vegetable gardens have been showing astonishing results. Every 4 to 6 weeks, there is so much harvest that the residents have been able to share them with needy families.

Tomorrow, they will take it one step further. They will conduct a Community Farmers Market in Woodlands and will have some 250 kg of the harvest to sell, with proceeds going to Man Fut Tong Nursing Home.

Photo 2This market will bring together the community gardeners in my GRC, to market their produce for a charitable cause.

Our little ones do not want to be left out, in this urban farming movement. Tiny gardeners from my PCF at Woodlands have also been growing their own vegetables. They too will hawk their harvests tomorrow.

We have successfully extended community gardening to the young to nurture a new generation of “green thumbs”. Over the last two months, the children have been tending to their own “Kinder-Garden”.

With the help from AVA officers, our enthusiastic pre-schoolers learn how to sow seeds in plastic cups, watch them grow into seedlings, before putting them out for outdoor planting. This has allowed our teachers to conduct outdoor lessons on seedling transplant, fertilising, weeding and harvesting. Their proud harvests will include Xiao Bai Cai, Nai Bai, Kang Kong and Bayam.

Come join us at the Farmers’ Market tomorrow!

Photo 3

 

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Reducing Food Waste

July 10, 2013

Reducing Food Waste

Recent media reports of rapidly rising food waste in Singapore deserve attention and practical action. With millions around the world starving or malnourished, it is not right that good food is wasted in Singapore.

AVA is doing its part. It has developed an innovative product under its R&D initiative: a vegetarian version of the popular snack, meat floss.

Okara, a Japanese word for soybean pulp, is a by-product from soy milk production. At least 30 tonnes of Okara is generated in Singapore every day. Currently, it is disposed off as food waste at a cost to the companies, or for use as an animal feed.

OkaraBut there is now a new option – Okara floss as food. And it is a 100% vegetarian product. This is AVA’s latest 3R initiative to Reduce, Recycle and Recover for food resilience.

I have sampled the Okara floss : it is tasty! We invite interested companies to take this innovation to the market, so that more people can get to enjoy it.

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More Food from Myanmar

March 11, 2013

More Food from Myanmar

Just now in Parliament, SPS Dr Maliki spoke about how AVA works closely with our food industry to diversify our food sources. We conduct regular overseas trade missions to potential sources such as Vietnam and Myanmar, and further away such as South America.

We are particularly hopeful of Myanmar becoming a good food source for us. It is nearby and a fertile country. It used to be a major rice exporter in the past.

With this in mind, SMS Lee Yi Shyan led a business delegation to Myanmar last year. One possible item is vegetables. Already, some traders in the delegation are keen to bring in chillies, to test our local market’s reception. AVA will also facilitate partnerships between Singaporean farmers and Myanmar supply chain partners.

Another potential item is seafood. The Myanmar seafood sector is well developed, and if prices are competitive, our traders will be keen. Though I do not promote the eating of salted tuna fish (from health view point), I certainly recall growing up eating salted fish from Myanmar, then called Burma! One of my favourites then was curry salted tuna fish, with long beans.

While there are some concerns about inadequate/lack of suitable infrastructure, Myanmar holds a lot of promise. Through more exchanges and transfer of technical expertise from AVA, I believe Myanmar farmers will, over time, be able to increase their food exports to Singapore. Our traders can also help support technology transfers to achieve win-win outcomes.

Expect to see more Myanmar vegetables and seafood on our dining tables.

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