Using tech in agriculture to overcome challenges

One start-up is planning to develop technology that can put a watermark on single seeds to prevent "counterfeits" that are packaged to look like they are from a certain brand when they are not.

Another company, Protenga, uses the Internet of Things to monitor and track insects that are used to produce animal feed.

These are among examples of Singapore firms using technology in the agricultural sector to enhance efficiency and overcome the challenges of operating in an urban environment.

They shared their agri-tech solutions at the Indoor Ag-Con Asia conference held at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre yesterday.

Ms Clara Chong, 23, chief commercial officer of Heseed, said: "The agriculture industry is quite traditional and has been so for a long time. There is huge room for growth in terms of bringing technology in. Our mission is to protect the seed business using innovative technology."

Heseed is working on ways to counter the sale of fake seeds by imprinting watermarks, which are currently printed only on packaging.

The company is also using technology to shorten the time seeds take to germinate.

Vertical farming company VertiVegies, meanwhile, has found ways to grow plants in urban environments. Working with Chinese farming company SananBio, it has multi-layered modules that use LEDs to grow plants indoors and utilise systems that regulate input factors such as temperature, humidity and nutrient mixes.

Since there is no soil involved and the plants are suspended in a nutrient-rich, water-based mix, there are no pests and diseases and no pesticide is needed. The final products are fresh, clean and chemical-free.

MAKING OF AN AGRI-TECH HUB

The challenge in Singapore has much to do with land, resources and water, but these factors that limit growth in agriculture can be solved by technology. As a city, we can find solutions that are efficient and bring them out into the world. We can be an agri-tech hub with the Singapore brand.

MR VEERA SEKARAN, one of the directors at vertical farming company VertiVegies.

Mr Veera Sekaran, one of the firm's directors, said: "Our aim is to have food security. We can grow these vegetables within a contained space and we have the technology to drive such production in controlled, urban environments.

"The challenge in Singapore has much to do with land, resources and water, but these factors that limit growth in agriculture can be solved by technology. As a city, we can find solutions that are efficient and bring them out into the world. We can be an agri-tech hub with the Singapore brand."

He added that by harnessing technology, Singapore businesses can expand in an industry worth billions of dollars.

"We can be a big player and the research centre of the world," he said. "The red lion logo (sign of business excellence) can then become a green lion."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2019, with the headline 'Using tech in agriculture to overcome challenges'. Print Edition | Subscribe