SPEECH BY DR KOH POH KOON, SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT, AT THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF GREEN HARVEST FARM ON 24 OCTOBER 2023
Mr Dave Huang, CEO, Green Harvest
Ladies and gentlemen,
1 Good afternoon. I am delighted to join you today to celebrate the opening of Green Harvest farm. Today marks a significant milestone in Singapore’s food security journey.
2 Food supply disruptions have become more frequent due to geopolitical tensions, climate change, and disease outbreaks. We import more than 90% of our food supply, making it impossible for us to insulate ourselves entirely from global food supply shocks. Local production is one of several food security strategies that Singapore has, to mitigate the impact of supply shocks.
3 As part of our 30 by 30 vision, we have been working with the agri-food industry to build our capability and capacity to sustainably produce 30% of our nutritional needs by 2030. I am heartened that local farms, like Green Harvest, are seeding the capability to produce food in a sustainable and productive way.
Green Harvest’s Green House
4 As you stepped into the farm this afternoon, I am sure many of you would have noticed the scale of Green Harvest’s hydroponics glass greenhouse. Just within their plot size of 2 hectares, Green Harvest is projected to produce up to 1,500 Tonnes of leafy vegetables a year. This works out to around 4 Tonnes of leafy vegetables a day which is roughly the weight of an adult Asian elephant. All without the use of pesticides. This is more than five times the average productivity of traditional farming methods.
5 Green Harvest’s farm is also climate-resilient and resource-efficient. Their glass greenhouse provides protection from outdoor elements and maintains optimal growing conditions, no matter the weather outside. The Mobile Gulley System they employ also uses less water than traditional farming methods as the water can be recirculated within the system.
6 Most of you would know, water is a very precious resource and it is not cheap because it takes us a considerable amount of effort and investment to make sure that each and every drop of water is available us. For farming, saving water is important because it means you waste less of your resources and you can get more returns for every single drop of water you put in. Traditional farming methods means irrigating the crops and every drop of water gets into the soil so you never really get the returns for the money you put in. This is how by being more resource efficient, you can maximise yield and reduce costs.
7 How did they achieve this? They have done so by learning from the experience of other farms, boldly exploring new technology, and collaborating with others to push the boundaries.
8 Green Harvest leveraged years of agricultural expertise built up by Kok Fah Technology Farm and collaborated with TeamBuild Construction Group to design and build this greenhouse. In addition, with the support of Singapore Food Agency’s (SFA) ‘30 by 30’ Express Grant and Agriculture Productivity Fund (APF), Green Harvest invested in the automated Mobile Gully System that I mentioned, with a customised layout to maximise space usage.
9 This system is tailor-made to Green Harvest’s needs, by accommodating moving gutters that will travel from the transplanting area to the growing area and finally the harvesting area. This innovation allows them to optimise resources and reduce manpower.
Encouraging Commercial Offtake through AfA
10 As we encourage our local farms to produce more, we must also create sufficient demand for local produce. In February this year, as part of the Forward SG conversations, the agri-food industry came together to form the Alliance for Action (AfA) on “Local Produce Demand Offtake and Consumer Education”. SFA brought together farmers, retailers as well as the hotels, restaurants and catering (HORECA) associations to conduct a deep dive into how to encourage higher offtake, and to co-create solutions.
11 The AfA has met regularly over 6 months to look into demand and supply aggregation of local produce and build greater support for local produce through consumer education. I would like to share the two main outcomes achieved by AfA here today.
Aggregating supply to match demand
12 First, the AfA has successfully received the support of key stakeholders to set up an industry-level supply and demand aggregator. This is a significant development because it is the first step towards addressing a problem currently faced by producers and buyers.
13 Producers of perishable agri-produce are unable to estimate ahead of time, the future market demand and the price points that will allow them to plant or grow sufficient vegetables or fish that the buyers would need. Retailers are unable to get commitment from the producers to ensure sufficient quantity of produce with good, consistent quality at a reasonable price point to ensure constancy of supplies to meet their customers’ needs.
14 There is thus market inefficiency and uncertainty for both producers and retailers. Hence, as a result of the AfA, the Singapore Agro-Food Enterprises Federation Limited (SAFEF) will be signing a Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with At Fresh Pte Ltd and Seafood Industries Association Singapore (SIAS) to drive the offtake of locally grown fresh produce, as well as processed food made from this.
15 Under these MOUs, SAFEF, At Fresh Pte Ltd and SIAS will aggregate the commercial supply of vegetables and fish, process them, and distribute the produce to local offtakers, such as retailers and F&B establishments. This allows longer term purchasing contracts to be given to producers for certainty of demand and pricing while ensuring constancy of supplies of good quality produce to retailers.
16 This significant development was made possible through SAFEF’s engagements with vegetable and fish farms to co-create a collective vision to generate greater offtake for local produce and the generous and candid sharing of business experiences and operational needs by all farms involved. I would like to thank all stakeholders involved for their strong trust and understanding as we work together to create greater demand for local produce.
17 I hope more producers and farms as well as retailers and off-takers will join in this initiative to strengthen and grow our agri-food sector.
Farm-to-Table Recognition Programme
18 Second, the AfA has made significant progress in onboarding more Hotel, Restaurants and the Catering (HORECA) businesses onto the Farm-to-Table Recognition Programme (FTTRP).
19 The FTTRP started in March this year with a total of 11 businesses on board. Today, I am happy to welcome another 23 new food companies on board, bringing the total number to 34. The offtake from these newly added companies is expected to generate an estimated procurement value of more than $6 million for the local farming sector. I encourage more food establishments and consumers to come on board to support local produce, and at the same time, benefit from fresher and greener ingredients.
20 I would like to express my appreciation to the AfA Chair Mr Stanley Goh, and Co-Chairs Mr Jack Moy and Mr Vincent Tan, who worked tirelessly with the AfA members to bring these initiatives to fruition. I am also grateful to the commitment displayed by some 40 AfA members from farms, distributors, supermarkets, F&B, trade associations, and the academia to support local produce.
Offtake Support from the Government
21 Some of you may ask – what is the Government doing to support local produce? Can government take a lead in this? To signal the public sector’s support for local produce, I am pleased to share that Vital, the central agency that manages corporate services such as procurement services for Whole-of-Government (WOG), recently launched a tender renewal for WOG Demand Aggregation Catering Contract that incorporated a weighted criterion for sustainable initiatives.
22 This means that caterers who have undertaken sustainability initiatives, such as being recognised under the FTTRP, can gain additional points under this evaluation criterion and increase their chances of securing government catering contracts. We are confident that this will further boost demand for local produce.
23 Let me conclude. Supporting local produce is something that all of us – Government, industry, and consumers – have a role to play in, to support Singapore’s food security. Our food security and resilience can only be achieved with a stronger social compact in which each of us as consumers and businesses are prepared to support more local produce. This is the spirit of the ForwardSG exercise and I am confident that our collective will and action will enable us to achieve far greater outcomes, as we have seen from Green Harvest and the AfA.
24 Once again, I congratulate the co-founders and employees of Green Harvest for the opening of your farm, and wish you continued success in the years ahead. Thank you very much.