New programme to be launched for those checking urban farm operations in Singapore

ComCrop is one of the urban farms working towards the newly launched SS 661 standard.
ComCrop is one of the urban farms working towards the newly launched SS 661 standard.PHOTO: ENTERPRISE SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - A new programme will be launched for those who certify local urban farms as green and clean to ensure that the checkers are competent and fair.

It comes as Singapore pushes ahead with its aim to produce 30 per cent of its nutritional needs locally by 2030.

The accreditation programme, by the Singapore Accreditation Council (SAC), is for checkers who will inspect and certify urban farms for compliance with the newly launched SS 661 standard.

The standard recognises local urban farms that produce safe, quality food, using resource-efficient practices in a clean and sustainable environment.

Enterprise Singapore (ESG) on Monday (Sept 27) said the checking bodies will first go through the SAC accreditation programme.

SAC chairman Tan Kai Hoe said: "We are accrediting that these conformity assessment bodies have both the technical competencies and management systems to do their job with integrity and impartiality."

The SS 661 standard was announced in March this year, and includes clean and green benchmarks on how vegetables are farmed, harvested, packaged, stored and transported.

For instance, SS 661-compliant urban farms cannot use any chemical pesticides.

Instead, physical methods such as ultraviolet light and insect pheromones to trap pests are preferred.

At the standard's launch, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) said it will work with local farmers and industry players to promote and raise awareness of the standard, which was developed by SFA and the Singapore Standards Council (SSC).

However, it is not mandatory for urban farms to be certified as SS 661-compliant.

Explaining the value of the standard, Mr Tan said laboratories that test the efficacy of masks and Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests may also be accredited by the SAC.

"Accreditation here checks the checkers," he added.

Ms Choy Sauw Kook, director-general of quality and excellence at ESG, said standards are positioned as voluntary when they are first developed.

"The company must see the value proposition in terms of productivity, reducing cost, branding and differentiation."

One of the urban farms working towards SS 661-compliance is ComCrop.

Founder and chairman Allan Lim, who was on the working group that developed the standard, said it would be useful for the entire agriculture industry.

"Prior to SS 661 standard, (the aim) has always been pest management and preventing the pest from attacking the crop.

"That leads to a lot of chemicals and pesticides being used. We are changing to a more holistic mindset on crop protection.

"We expect the SS 661 to be a challenge but not an impossible challenge," he added.