Parliament: Agri-food innovation park in Sungei Kadut to open from early 2021, says Koh Poh Koon

 Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon said the vision is for Singapore to be a leader in urban agriculture and aquaculture technology, with a food production model that can be exported to the region.
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon said the vision is for Singapore to be a leader in urban agriculture and aquaculture technology, with a food production model that can be exported to the region. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - As Singapore looks to develop a new sector of agri-technology, it will open an 18ha Agri-Food Innovation Park in Sungei Kadut, which will be ready in phases from the second quarter of 2021.

Announcing this development on Monday (March 4), Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon said the park, which is the size of about 33 football fields, will bring together high-tech farming and research and development activities, including indoor plant factories, insect farms and animal feed production facilities.

"We are working with local and overseas industry players to develop this first phase of the park, which will be ready from the second quarter of 2021 with potential for future expansion," said Dr Koh, who spoke on the need to strengthen infrastructure support to encourage innovation in the sector.

Mr Desmond Choo (Tampines GRC) had asked what Singapore is doing to develop the food and agri-tech sector, which is worth $5 trillion globally. 

Dr Koh said the vision is for Singapore to be a leader in urban agriculture and aquaculture technology, with a food production model that can be exported to the region.

"Our good innovation climate, strong talent base, reputation for food safety and strategic location position us well to capture a slice of this industry, particularly in Asia," he added.

Dr Koh said he is leading a multi-agency team to look into support for the agri-tech industry in areas such as research and development, manpower and regulations.

The committee will work closely with industry players and associations such as the Singapore Agro-Food Enterprises Federation to take on board feedback, he added.

A new generation of technopreneur farmers is also emerging, and Dr Koh expects institutes of higher learning to introduce more courses to equip students with skills for the sector.

But as the authorities grow this sector, they will need to explore regulatory flexibility as well, said Dr Koh.

For example, some fire code requirements may not be applicable for farming activities and may constrain a farm's operations, he said, citing difficulties egg farm Chew's Agriculture faced when seeking approvals for its new farm in Neo Tiew Road. Agencies eventually exercised flexibility in applying the rules, in view of the low fire risk and site limitations for the farm.

 
 
 

"We are also helping more of our agri-companies expand into foreign markets," said Dr Koh, citing local start-up Sustenir's plans to grow in Hong Kong. The company specialises in producing non-native plants, such as strawberries grown in Singapore.

During the debate on the Trade and Industry Ministry's budget on Monday, Dr Koh also spoke on other promising areas of growth for Singapore, such as advanced manufacturing, where the Republic is building new niches in additive manufacturing and advanced materials.

The authorities have been helping companies to prepare to transform their businesses, having awarded over 230 funded assessments and helping more than 150 manufacturing companies better prepare for Industry 4.0, he said.

Unions have also been reaching out to 16 major players, including companies such as Epson and Seiko, on helping workers gain new skills to take on higher-value jobs.

"At the same time, we are also developing next-generation estates such as the Jurong Innovation District," he said. The district will feature infrastructure such as an underground district logistics network that will free up surface land, transforming the way goods are delivered.

Singapore will create platforms for an exchange of ideas in this sector as well, such as by organising the Industrial Transformation Asia-Pacific trade show - an offshoot of the Hannover Messe, the largest Industry 4.0 event globally - again in 2019.

"The growth of the advanced manufacturing sector will have spillover benefits for emerging adjacent industries, such as electric vehicles," he said.