Funding boost for landscaping industry

$5.6m grant aims to spur firms to adopt new technologies

Lawn mowing has become a breeze after landscaping firm Ho Eng Huat Construction got itself a wireless remote mower.

The device bought with a government grant has cut the number of workers it needs for lawn mowing from six to just one.

Landscaping companies will have more government funds to tap to buy such nifty devices, after the Government announced a $5.6-million boost for the sector over the next four years.

Of the sum, $3 million will go towards the Landscape Productivity Grant - a co-funding scheme announced three years ago with $3.6 million to help firms defray the cost of equipment. The remaining $2.6 million will be used to fund studies and surveys on topics such as the skills and manpower needed for the industry.

Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee announced the new funding yesterday at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, where 2,000 guests from the landscaping industry gathered and took part in competitions.

Mr Lee said Singapore needs to "evolve the way we green".

"The world is going to be quite different in the next 50 years. New technologies are on the market, new business models and innovative ideas will change how things are done," he said.

Apart from pumping more funds into the grant, the Government is also tripling the funding cap to $300,000 per company.

Ho Eng Huat Construction was one of more than 50 firms to tap on the initial $3.6 million.

Mr Jeverss Choo, 35, project director at Mao Sheng Quanji Construction, said his company will apply for the grant.

He hopes to make use of the grant to buy a robotic lawn mower that he saw at a tradeshow in Germany.

"It can mow the lawn by itself, so instead of having one man mow the lawn, I need a man to programme the machine. This will make the job more attractive and easier for me to hire workers," said Mr Choo, whose company has about 500 employees.

Meanwhile, Mr Lee noted yesterday that some nursery operators are worried about their land leases expiring from early next year.

He said the National Parks Board will extend the leases of nurseries in Sungei Tengah and Neo Tiew Crescent to early 2019.

The Government has also set aside parcels of land for long-term nursery needs, he added. These will be launched in phases from mid- 2018.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 25, 2016, with the headline 'Funding boost for landscaping industry'. Print Edition | Subscribe