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Technology fuels food industry growth

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Agriculture does not come first to mind as a thriving industry here. Yet in recent years, there has been a concerted push by the Government to encourage innovation in farming technology as well as growing the local food supply. There are signs these initiatives are starting to pay dividends. Recently, German chemical giant Evonik opened its second plant to produce an animal feed additive. The facility, an investment of more than $768 million, is due in large part to Singapore's position as a trade and logistics hub, which gives the company access to regional markets. The Singapore Food Agency also put a tender up for 10 land parcels for farming in Lim Chu Kang, emphasising that proposals with higher productivity and better sustainability are likelier to win the tender.

Agriculture here has a long history, dating back to colonial times. Singapore was not just a convenient port of call for British and other traders but also a source of farming income. In the early 19th century, pepper and gambier were the cash crops. Singapore was also where the seeds for the rubber industry were planted. The rise of rubber plantations led to the cultivation of the fast-growing pineapple fruit, which were canned and shipped to Europe as a luxury good. Such products were the foundation of the fortunes of pioneers such as Lim Nee Soon. Just as new techniques and technologies helped develop agriculture industries then, new farming methods hold promise for creating jobs and goods as well as securing the food supply. Singapore already has vegetable farms in climate-controlled containers, farms combining fish and vegetable farming to maximise returns and fish farms that produced 4,600 tonnes of fish last year. The goal of growing 30 per cent of food needs by 2030 is ambitious but achievable with the commitment of resources.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2019, with the headline Technology fuels food industry growth. Subscribe