First batch of Temasek Rice grown in the community harvested in Tampines

Tampines Town Council chairman Cheng Li Hui (centre) and North East District Mayor Desmond Choo at the harvesting of the first batch of Temasek rice, in Tampines on Feb 12, 2022. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - The made-in-Singapore Temasek Rice, a hardy and climate resistant grain variety, has been harvested in the community for the first time as part of a pilot to tackle threats to the country's food supply.

The harvesting of the rice at a vertical high-tech farm along a wall at Block 146 Tampines Avenue 5 took place on Saturday (Feb 12).

For now, the rice will only be used for research and development purposes by Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory (TLL), which will further study how to grow crops in urban farm settings. The pilot is supported by Tampines Town Council, Temasek Foundation and TLL.

Welcoming the initiative, Ms Cheng Li Hui, chairman of Tampines Town Council, said: "Singapore is heavily reliant on food imports and faces the risk of supply disruptions."

Ms Cheng, who was present at the rice harvesting ceremony, added: "For many years, Tampines has committed itself to being a living laboratory for the latest technologies and solutions in sustainable developments. I am heartened to see the progress we have made in food sustainability."

Temasek Rice was first germinated in TLL's greenhouses, before being transferred and transplanted in October last year to the vertical farm at Block 146.

The rice has also been grown in Tasikmalaya, Indonesia, for commercial sale since 2016.

At the Tampines high-tech farm, precision drip irrigation is used to deliver water and nutrients to the rice's root zone in suitable amounts so that each stalk can grow optimally.

It usually takes 2,500 litres of water to produce 1kg of rice grown in a paddy field.

But the use of precision drip irrigation can reduce the amount of water needed to grow the same quantity of rice to 750 litres, said Mr Daniel Wong, director of technology at Netatech, the sustainable technology firm managing the farm.

Temasek Rice in particular requires less water to grow and is able to thrive for two weeks without water.

Besides Temasek Rice, leafy vegetables like nai bai and bayam spinach are also grown at the Tampines vertical farm.

Every month, the farm yields 165kg of produce, which can cover 30 per cent of the monthly vegetable needs of 103 families.

This will bring Singapore closer to its goal of producing 30 per cent of its own food by 2030.

Mr Lim Hock Chuan, chief executive of Temasek Foundation Liveability, said: "We hope that projects such as this will breathe new life into farming, making full use of urban vertical spaces to bring benefits to the community."

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