From fish vaccines to AI for farming: SFA pumps $23 million into R&D to boost food security

Four of the proposals aim to study how vegetables can be grown more efficiently in an urban setting, while another eight are related to aquaculture.
Four of the proposals aim to study how vegetables can be grown more efficiently in an urban setting, while another eight are related to aquaculture.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
SFA chief executive Lim Kok Thai said the world is facing challenges impacting global food security.
SFA chief executive Lim Kok Thai said the world is facing challenges impacting global food security.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - A total of $23 million is being pumped into research projects to boost Singapore's food security. The 12 projects will look into how rearing fish and growing vegetables can be improved.

Eight of the proposals are related to aquaculture, while four aim to study how vegetables can be grown more efficiently in an urban setting, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) said in a statement on Monday (April 26).

SFA chief executive Lim Kok Thai said the world is facing challenges impacting global food security.

These include climate change, growing populations, and decreasing land available for agricultural use.

"Research and development hold the key to the future of food," said Mr Lim.

"The awarded proposals have shown both innovation and practicality for application and I have every confidence that the outcomes of their research will bring us closer towards a more resilient, sustainable and vibrant agri-tech sector in Singapore."

The research proposals span fields such as genetics (selective breeding of barramundi with better growth and fillet traits) and nutrition (improving fish feed for red snappers).

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) and technology to improve farming is another area of research interest.

For instance, a proposal by researchers from the Nanyang Technological University and Panasonic Factory Solutions aims to find out how the real-time monitoring of crop health and nutrient analysis can help to reduce waste and boost productivity in hydroponic cultivation.

Scientists from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) are working with Uvaxx, a company that develops vaccines for aquaculture use, to develop one against the scale drop disease virus in Asian sea bass.

SFA said the 12 proposals included innovative ideas and solutions that are aligned with the grant's objectives to increase the productivity of local food producers, taking into consideration factors such as cost-effectiveness, resource use efficiency, sustainability and climate resilience.

The 12 proposals were funded under a grant call for research and development in sustainable urban food production.

"The proposals also demonstrated good potential to be scaled up and applied in Singapore and other countries based on their track record, industry experience and research team," the agency added.

Singapore imports more than 90 per cent of its food. It has set a target to boost local food production, with the aim of producing 30 per cent of its nutritional needs by 2030.