Speech by Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Opening Ceremony of Nature’s International Commodity Farm, on 28 January 2023
1 Good afternoon, everyone. 新年快乐 (happy lunar new year)! As today is 人日 (everybody’s birthday), let me begin by wishing everyone a happy birthday, and today we also want to congratulate Farmer Nick and NIC on the opening of their farm.
Urban farming and multi-storey carpark farms
2 We are at level 5 of a multi-storey carpark at 723A Tampines Street 72. This is probably not what first comes to mind when we envision a farm. High-rise and urban farms, like NIC, are a win-win innovation that allows us to optimise the use of underutilised spaces and bring food production closer to our community. Urban farms can reach sufficient scale to be commercially viable while contributing to our food supply resilience. Located in the heartlands, urban farms also encourage the kampung spirit by fostering community cohesiveness and bonding. At NIC, visitors can join outdoor farm tours and children can participate in a programme to experience life as an urban farmer, learn about organic practices and even harvest a bag of produce.
“30 by 30” Goal
3 These programmes organised by NIC help build awareness in our community about farming and food production. Such awareness is important because each of us has a part to play in Singapore’s food resilience story. We have a “30 by 30” goal that seeks to build our agri-food industry’s capability and capacity to sustainably produce 30 per cent of our nutritional needs by 2030. Local produce will serve as a buffer during food supply disruptions and the Government, in close partnership with industry, is doing what we can to achieve this.
4 Our Singapore Food Agency (SFA) works closely with farms and supports them in adopting sustainable farming methods. The SFA has set aside $60 million under the Agri-food Cluster Transformation (ACT) fund to help our farms adopt technology to increase productivity, and grow more with less. I’m glad to know that NIC was able to tap on the ACT fund to set up an Automated Irrigation & Dosing System. With almost every system (e.g. drip and sprinkler) automated, almost no manual intervention is required for operation, saving 2,160 manhours annually.
5 At just 2,500 sqm, NIC is also able to grow 20 types of leafy and fruited vegetables, as well as herbs like caixin, long beans, and mint. This is achieved through the use of vermicomposting, where farm waste such as trimmed vegetable parts, used cocopeat media, and fruited vegetables provide additional supplements and improve the soil condition for their 600 growing towers.
6 Apart from contributing to our food resilience, one of NIC’s goals is to educate and raise awareness of farming within the community. NIC conducts workshops on sustainable urban farming for the public and schools, and is working with the People’s Association and grassroots leaders to host community events. This is important because the commercial viability of our farms depends on strong local support and demand. I encourage all of you to also support produce grown by local farms such as NIC. In doing so, you help to keep our farms commercially viable, so that they can continue to contribute to Singapore’s food resilience.
Working closely with residents
7 Urban farms like NIC are quite new, and we need to continue working together to develop guidelines and standards. Urban farms are also near to residential areas, and this proximity can bring about some challenges. SFA works closely with farms like NIC to address concerns from residents and monitor any potential issues. I am confident that NIC will work closely with residents, and be a great asset for the Tampines community in the years to come.
8 I’m very heartened to see our residents here today at NIC, enjoying the facilities and learning more about farms. We look forward to even more of our local farms adopting sustainable technologies and growing more with less. Congratulations again to Farmer Nick and the NIC team. Thank you!