Agri-tech precinct with plant, fish, poultry facilities among ideas raised for Lim Chu Kang area

An area spanning about 390ha in the rural north-west is slated to be made over into Singapore's high-tech food bowl from 2024. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Lim Chu Kang's future as an agriculture-technology precinct could see it co-locating farmers, researchers and other experts and plant, fish and poultry shared facilities.

Alternatively, facilities like research and development (R&D) spaces and recreational and educational services for the general public could be housed in mixed-used buildings, said Dr Mandar Godge, a plant scientist from Temasek Polytechnic.

Pop-up events with demonstrations of how to cook fresh local produce could also strengthen people's awareness of Lim Chu Kang's potential, even before the area is redeveloped, said Ms Suzanna Tang, founder of sustainable food brands promoter Urban Origins, in a separate presentation.

These were among various recommendations made on Saturday (Oct 30) at the final session of a stakeholder engagement series on the master planning of Lim Chu Kang.

An area spanning about 390ha in the rural north-west is slated to be made over into Singapore's high-tech food bowl from 2024.

The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) will open the tender for its master planning consultancy at the end of this year.

SFA said feasible ideas will be shared with the eventual consultant to be refined for inclusion in the Lim Chu Kang masterplan.

The planned redevelopment is meant to help the area - currently home to a number of traditional farms - more than treble its current food production. This forms part of Singapore's "30 by 30" food security goal to produce 30 per cent of its nutritional needs by 2030.

More than 40 people - including agricultural companies and industry experts, and representatives from institutes of higher learning - attended Saturday's session.

Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu told participants at the end of the session: "Some of you have also painted an exciting future for Singapore's food industry - not just in terms of production, but moving into technology and R&D."

She added that thinking beyond food production can also lead to more economic opportunities in areas like data analytics and carbon sequestration, which is the capture and storage of carbon dioxide.

Ms Fu added that Lim Chu Kang needs to cater to the needs of diverse stakeholders who produce different types of food through various farming system.

"It's not just about environmental sustainability, but also commercial sustainability," she added.

She said that a strong community and identity will also help the area to succeed and have regional influence.

"It's more than just the potential buyers and consumers, but also the science, learning and investment communities... having a place in Lim Chu Kang, and being able to (interact with) a diverse array of technologies and products.

"We can only collaborate when we have a common set of values. It's about sharing, knowledge accumulation and putting out your data for comparison. That has to be the centre of this community and identity."

Other suggestions from participants include a "hawker centre model" for agriculture which allows companies to share infrastructure and utilities, which reduces the barriers to entry for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Mr Darren Tan, head of education and community outreach at rooftop farming company ComCrop, said: "Presently, if you were to get a piece of land in the area, you would have to arrange for the electricity and water yourself. That adds to the cost of setting up a farm."

Mr Marcus Koe, founder of Habitat Collective, and Mr Seah Zi Quan, a postgraduate engineering student at Nanyang Technological University, said agro-ecology - farming which co-exists with nature - can complement agri-tech systems and help with carbon sequestration.

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