Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Soft Opening of Urabn Farming Partners Singapore Farm Facility, GroGracw, 3 August 2022
Mr Ahmed Aboutaleb, Mayor of Rotterdam
Her Excellency, Margriet Vonno, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Netherlands to Singapore and Brunei
Ms Grace Lim, Co-founder and CEO of Urban Farming Partners Singapore
1 Good morning, everyone. It is my pleasure to be here today to witness the soft opening of Urban Farming Partners Singapore (or UFPSG)’s first proof-of-concept farm, GroGrace.
2 GroGrace integrates multiple layers of dry hydroponics systems with Dutch horticulture technologies. This innovative approach has the potential to game change farming towards higher productivity and sustainability. UFPSG, along with other progressive farmers that we have been working with, bring us closer to our ‘30 by 30’ goal, and to build an attractive agri-food ecosystem for local and foreign companies to anchor in.
Importance of Food Security
3 In recent years, countries have been exposed to challenges such as geopolitical tensions and extreme weather events. The conflict in Ukraine has resulted in an escalation of prices of food and animal feed and a consequent reduction in meat production for producers that are unable to obtain sufficient feed. Climate change has also caused droughts and floods which have impacted crop yield, adding stress to global food supplies.
4 As a country that imports more than 90 per cent of our food, Singapore is vulnerable to global food supply shocks. This is why we work hard to ensure a safe and secure supply of food. While we continue to further diversify our food import sources, we concurrently ramp up local production, which would help to mitigate the impact of overseas supply disruptions.
Ramping up Local Production through Innovation and Technology
5 By 2030, we aim to have the capacity and capabilities to meet 30 per cent of our nutritional needs through locally and sustainably produced food. This is what we term our ‘30 by 30’ goal. It is an ambitious goal and will require industry-wide transformation. Given the limited space Singapore has, we need to constantly review our land use to meet evolving needs, as well as balance the various land demands, such as housing, industry, defence, and more. This involves evaluating trade-offs and coming up with innovative solutions to optimise land use and fulfil these competing needs. With less than 1 per cent of our land available for food production, our farms must make the most of our agri-spaces, and produce in a productive, climate-resilient, and resource-efficient way.
6 Technology and innovation are key enablers for this transformation, and the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) has dedicated a significant amount of resources towards these areas. As of last year, SFA’s Agriculture Productivity Fund (APF) has committed over S$50 million in co-funding to support 132 companies to adopt high-tech equipment and farming systems, and test-bedding of technologies. Separately, the new S$60 million Agri-Food Cluster Transformation (ACT) Fund has committed S$3.8 million to fund 13 projects thus far. The ACT Fund co-funds a higher quantum for a wider range of food types to adopt productive and sustainable technologies and advanced farming systems.
7 To transform Singapore’s agri-food industry and bolster our food security, we need progressive farms such as GroGrace that are willing to trailblaze and innovate. GroGrace is one of the beneficiaries of the APF, having received funding to implement the dry hydroponics system where the plants are not planted in, but above the water. This would result in stronger root development, a dryer micro-climate around the leaves which helps the plant to absorb nutrients better, and a stressless growth for the plants. GroGrace’s multi-layer farm structure also allows the optimisation of limited space to grow more. Together with the use of Internet of Things automation systems and rainwater collection for irrigation and fertigation, GroGrace has the potential to sustainably produce 33 tonnes of fresh, ready-to-eat produce annually within the 750 sqm compact facility we are standing in today.
Partnerships are Key
8 Partnerships across Governments and businesses are critical in bolstering our food supply resilience. The soft opening of GroGrace today is testament to Singapore’s close relationship with the Netherlands and our commitment to public-private as well as international partnerships for agri-food collaborations. GroGrace also demonstrates the close collaboration between SFA and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, as well as Dutch and Singapore’s agri-tech businesses, which allowed the cross-sharing of knowledge and the development of an integrated indoor farming system utilising patented Dutch technology. The use of this technology not only makes the farm scalable, but also allows it to be easily assembled and deployed in a highly urbanised country like Singapore. While the geographies and climates between Singapore and the Netherlands are very different, we are united in our quest to strengthen food security in a sustainable manner. I thank our Dutch counterparts for sharing their best-in-class agricultural insight to bring UFPSG’s farm to life.
9 Let me conclude. These are exciting times for our agri-food sector, which is undergoing rapid growth and transformation. The soft opening of GroGrace is a timely milestone that shows the possibilities of technology and food innovations to mitigate the challenges we face, as well as Singapore’s inherent land limitations. I hope to see more of such partnerships that encourage Singapore farms to adopt sustainable technologies to grow more with less.
10 My heartiest congratulations to UFPSG on the soft opening of GroGrace. I look forward to seeing the possibilities that both GroGrace and UFPSG can offer.