SPEECH BY DR KOH POH KOON, SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT, AT GROW ASIA FORUM ON 18 OCTOBER 2022
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1 Good morning. It is wonderful to see such a great turnout today at the Grow Asia Forum after two years of virtual meetings. This reflects the importance the ASEAN community places on food security and sustainable food systems.
Importance of Food Security
2 Food supply chains across the world are highly complex and interlinked. While they have worked well in the past, countries have increasingly been grappling with disruptions arising from challenges such as geopolitical tensions, climate change, extreme weather events, disease outbreaks and inflationary pressures. Rural-urban migration has exacerbated this and reduced the labour pool for the agriculture industry.
3 Food security is an existential matter that cannot be ignored. In Singapore, we rely heavily on food imports, and this makes us particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in global supply chains. To manage supply chain risks, we diversify our imports. Today we import from about 180 countries and regions. As a buffer against import disruptions, we are augmenting our ability to grow locally. Singapore has set an ambitious ‘30 by 30’ goal to build the capability and capacity of our agri-food industry to produce 30 per cent of our nutritional needs sustainably by 2030.
Transforming the agri-food industry
4 To achieve this ‘30 by 30’ goal, our agri-food industry cannot remain status quo. We only have about 1% of our land for food production. This creates the imperative for our food production to be done in a productive, climate-resilient and resource-efficient way. Technology and innovation are key enablers in this transformation, and in Singapore, we invest heavily in these areas.
5 We have committed over S$60 million under the Agri-Food Cluster Transformation (ACT) Fund to co-fund agri-food companies to adopt and test-bed productive and sustainable farming technologies and systems. To date, $3.8 million has been awarded to 13 projects. The Government has also made available $144 million under the Singapore Food Story R&D programme to drive research intosustainable urban food solutions, future foods, and food safety science and innovation. Our Singapore Food Agency (SFA) has also awarded close to S$30 million to seven companies under its ‘30 by 30’ Express grant call to accelerate the production of key food items to help Singapore achieve its ‘30 by 30’ goal.
6 One of the beneficiaries of the ‘30 x 30’ Express grant is ComCrop, one of the pioneers of urban farming in Singapore. It tapped on the grant to develop a new hybrid greenhouse facility which was launched earlier this month. This latest facility uses an automated farming system, a mobile gully system and remote monitoring for plant growth management to maximise the use of space, increase productivity, and reduce manpower. The company has also introduced other technologies that enhance sustainability, including harnessing solar energy to reduce energy consumption from the grid. Such farms of the future are important for Singapore. They form critical nodes in our agri-food ecosystem, that will create higher-value jobs within our growing agri-food industry.
7 Beyond investing in technology and innovation, SFA worked with Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and the industry to develop guidelines on farm management and best practices to enhance the sustainability of our farms and build resilience towards climate change. The Singapore Standard: Specification for Clean and Green Standard for Urban Farms – Agriculture was launched last year. It will help local vegetable farms achieve a clean and green production system that does not use pollutive farm inputs and minimises environmental impact. The standard also ensures our farms play their role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. The standard contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and encourages farms to adopt climate resilient technologies against the rising heat in our tropical region.
Partnerships are key enablers
8 Partnerships across governments and businesses are critical in bolstering our food resilience. One example includes the launch of Urban Farming Partners Singapore’s first proof-of-concept farm, GroGrace in August this year. This was a result of a close partnership between Singapore and the Netherlands, and a reflection of the Singapore Government’s commitment to public-private as well as international agri-food collaborations. The strong support from SFA, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency and more importantly, the close collaboration between Dutch and Singapore’s agri-tech businesses, facilitated the cross-sharing of knowledge which greatly enhanced the scalability of the farm. By integrating multiple layers of dry hydroponics systems with Dutch horticulture technologies, GroGrace has the potential to sustainably produce 33 tonnes of fresh, ready-to-eat produce all year round within a 750sqm compact facility.
9 Let me conclude. I am encouraged to see organisations like Grow Asia bring the international community together to develop a more sustainable and socially equitable agriculture landscape. This is particularly timely as we have recently commemorated World Food Day which aims to build a sustainable world, leaving no one behind. Grow Asia’s country partnership network and regional programmes have contributed to more sustainable agricultural development in Southeast Asia. Global challenges such as economic fluctuations, market forces and climatic events will continue to affect food security across all countries. It is therefore in our collective interest to continue to work together and scale up efforts to build resilience in our agriculture and food systems.
10 We have much to learn from one another and I look forward to new ideas and partnerships that will emerge from this forum. The conversations we have today will be a useful precursor to our upcoming Singapore International Agri-food Week coming up soon from the 25th to 28th Oct 2022, where we will have further discussions on how we can collectively build a sustainable and future-proof agri-industry for current and future generations. I wish everyone a fruitful forum today.