Singapore eyes growth in urban farming, aquaculture tech

Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, with Mr Veera Sekaran, one of the directors of VertiVegies, an indoor vertical farming firm, at the Indoor Ag-Con Asia conference at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre yesterd
Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, with Mr Veera Sekaran, one of the directors of VertiVegies, an indoor vertical farming firm, at the Indoor Ag-Con Asia conference at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre yesterday. PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN FOR INDOOR AG-CON ASIA

Enterprise Singapore, partners to co-invest over $90m in agri-food tech start-ups

Singapore has the "right ingredients" to make it the urban agriculture and aquaculture technology hub in the region, Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, said yesterday.

In a keynote speech at the Indoor Ag-Con Asia conference at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre, he said Singapore is in a strong position to "catalyse technological and business innovations" as it has a climate for innovation, strong talent base and strategic location, which can transform agriculture and aquaculture in the Asia-Pacific region.

"Where arable land is scarce, innovating how we produce food is critical in helping us overcome our farming constraints and better contribute to our food sustainability and traceability efforts," he added.

"Investments in agri-tech can also help to reduce our reliance on food imports and allow us to enjoy seasonal produce while lowering our carbon footprint."

To boost the agri-tech sector, Dr Koh announced that Enterprise Singapore, through its investment arm Seeds Capital, has appointed seven investment partners under Startup SG Equity - a scheme that encourages private-sector investment for start-ups.

Seeds Capital aims to spur the growth of emerging and strategic sectors such as agri-tech, by stimulating investment in innovative local start-ups.

Under this partnership, more than $90 million worth of investments will go into early-stage tech start-ups with food and agri-tech solutions.

The appointed partners are AgFunder, Hatch, ID Capital, Openspace, The Yield Lab, Trendlines and VisVires New Protein.

With Seeds Capital, the partners will assist early-stage start-ups, such as by introducing new business partners and providing support to enter new markets.

Seeds Capital will also provide co-funding of up to $4 million per deep tech start-up under Startup SG Equity.

Dr Koh said: "We are building a vibrant agri-tech start-up environment to uncover more talent, anchor experts, partners, investors and accelerators into our ecosystem, and expand the pool of knowledge and resources.

"We are developing relevant research capabilities in areas such as seed formulation and fish nutrition, advanced biotech-based protein production and food safety science. (Furthermore) we are establishing a high-tech physical cluster in Kranji to support operations in urban agriculture and aquaculture."

One of the Singapore agri-tech companies at the conference was Protenga, an insect farming company that produces animal feed. It has incorporated data sensors into its farms to help determine the right feeding frequency and amount, increasing the quality and volume of produce.

Another company, VertiVegies, an indoor vertical farming firm, also displayed its modular planting system that uses technology to ensure efficient plant growth, while taking up minimal space and giving Singapore the potential to achieve food security.

"Singapore's journey to become a leader in agriculture technology is still in the early days, and there is much more for us to do," added Dr Koh.

"I encourage industry representatives and leaders... to carry on your good work in leading the development of solutions and standards for the sector, to provide fertile ground for the germination of new ideas, technology matching and transfer, (and) capability development."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2019, with the headline 'S'pore eyes growth in urban farming, aquaculture tech'. Print Edition | Subscribe