The Straits Times says

Growing food from seeds of technology

An emphasis on developing a new sector of agri-technology is apparent in the Government's decision to open an 18ha Agri-Food Innovation Park in Sungei Kadut, which will be ready in phases from the second quarter of 2021. The park will bring together high-tech farming and research and development activities, including indoor plant factories, insect farms and animal feed production facilities. These initiatives should help to enhance Singapore's desire to lead in urban agriculture and aquaculture technology. Indeed, its food production model could be exported to the region. Should that vision succeed, it would represent sweet revenge being taken on Singapore's economic geography.

The imperative of turning to massive industrialisation at the expense of agriculture was a result of the country's unexpected independence. It simply did not make economic sense to devote large parts of a tiny nation-state to farming when scarce land could be used more profitably for industrial activities instead. Those activities were critical in incorporating Singapore into the global economy, thus freeing it of dependence on its traditional hinterland. However, technology does not only change with the times, it changes the times. That is patently true of urban agriculture. According to Greensgrow, a non-profit organisation in the United States, urban agriculture comes into its own when it achieves commercial value, that is, when products can be sold, as opposed to being grown for merely personal consumption or for sharing. That commercial element is missing from subsistence farming or community gardening. What is true of a giant industrialised landmass such as the US is true of Singapore as well. In spite of limitations of space, technology in Singapore can release agriculture from its spatial and seasonal limitations. That freedom is embraced by Singaporeans, especially those who are younger, who are showing interest in high-tech urban farming. In fact, the emergence of young technopreneur farmers suggests that urban farming could enjoy more than a pastoral niche in Singapore's economic development.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2019, with the headline 'Growing food from seeds of technology'. Print Edition | Subscribe