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$30m for local farms to grow more, grow faster

New grant aims to help them ramp up production of eggs, leafy vegetables, fish

ComCrop founder Allan Lim and chief executive Peter Barber at the company's rooftop greenhouse in Woodlands.
ComCrop founder Allan Lim and chief executive Peter Barber at the company's rooftop greenhouse in Woodlands. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

A $30 million grant has been launched to help local farms ramp up their production of eggs, leafy vegetables and fish over the next six to 24 months.

The 30x30 Express grant will help accelerate local food production in the shortest time possible, said the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) and the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) in a joint statement yesterday.

The grant will let successful applicants defray upfront costs to increase production capacity in the upcoming months, and go towards reaching the Republic's 30 by 30 goal, or to produce enough food here to meet 30 per cent of its nutritional needs by 2030. Currently, less than 10 per cent of food consumed here is grown locally.

The open grant call, which will be launched in the middle of this month, will invite local agri-food players producing the three food types to submit their proposals to grow more, and faster.

Fish, leafy vegetables and eggs are the three most commonly consumed food items in Singapore. Last year, local farms produced 14 per cent of leafy vegetables, 26 per cent of eggs and 10 per cent of fish consumed here.

During the supplementary budget debate on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said that Covid-19 has underscored the importance of further strengthening Singapore's supply chain resilience and food security, adding that several MPs have urged the Government to further develop local food production capabilities.

"In my ministerial statement on the Resilience Budget, I spoke about our efforts to deal with the immediate challenges, by having a robust, multi-pronged strategy to ensure a stable supply of safe food and essential items. We have been working on this for years, and will continue to do so," Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, said.

Founder of ComCrop Allan Lim said the grant will help accelerate plans to scale up production.

The company, which set up the first commercial urban rooftop farm here in 2014, is test bedding the growth of leafy Asian greens such as xiao bai cai and cai xin in the 6,000 sq ft greenhouse atop an industrial building in Woodlands.

It produces 50kg of leafy greens every day to supply to supermarkets here. It hopes to build seven more such greenhouses on the rooftop farm within the next six to eight months and expand production capacity by up to 10 times, said Mr Lim.

He added that the farm has spent years acquiring and test bedding advanced farming systems, and figuring out what works. "It's time to put into use what we already know. We are all ready to scale up."

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said that it is important that efforts to grow local are supported by consumers.

"Demand from consumers will spur our farmers to become more productive, and allow them to reap the benefits of economies of scale."

SFA and MEWR said they will also work to identify industrial spaces and vacant sites that can double as alternative farming spaces.

From next month, SFA will launch a tender for rooftop spaces on HDB multi-storey carparks to be used for urban farming. A multi-agency task force, headed by Mr Masagos, has also been formed to drive inter-agency efforts to address challenges in the setting up and expansion of farms, said the agencies.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2020, with the headline $30m for local farms to grow more, grow faster. Subscribe