Forum: Limits to using data and AI to boost food security

I refer to the Opinion piece "How AI can strengthen food resilience" (March 17).

While I appreciate that artificial intelligence (AI) can help to strengthen Singapore's food resilience, I am disappointed that the authors did not also provide its limitations, and more importantly, other critical factors that can severely impact Singapore's food resilience.

Take Singapore's vertical farms for vegetables and fish as an illustration. These vertical farms are energy intensive.

Indoor plants need artificial lighting and environment control; indoor fish farms, otherwise known as recirculating aquaculture systems, need recirculating pumps, filtration systems, oxygenation systems, and so on, all of which are energy intensive.

The fact that Singapore relies predominantly on the import of natural gas (including liquefied natural gas) for its energy, means any disruption to these imports will severely impact these farms.

I believe the authors should highlight our energy supply and other critical factors and comment on whether AI, among other measures, can be leveraged to provide resilience to these farms.

In addressing import of food from other countries and the possibility that climate change may impact these sources of supply, the authors refer to "leveraging data and AI in the food ecosystem" as "our new strategic focus".

While using data modelling and advanced AI to predict how climate change may impact these food supply chains is admittedly a challenging one to tackle, climate change is just one of many factors.

Perhaps a less challenging but no less critical factor is the logistics of the supply chain itself.

I believe AI can be leveraged to augment supply chain resilience, but AI, which relies predominantly on historical data, may not necessarily predict a "freak" disruption, which may be caused by unexpected incidents such as unprecedented earthquakes or political turmoil.

Our strategic focus should therefore involve more comprehensive scenario planning augmented by data and AI, rather than just leveraging data and AI.

Seah Ah Kuan