Nine farms offered $40m in push to grow local

ComCrop's chief executive Peter Barber explaining the rooftop farm's hydroponic system to Ms Fu, while Singapore Food Agency CEO Lim Kok Thai looked on, during a visit to the farm on Tuesday.
Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu visiting vegetable farm I.F.F.I. on Tuesday. With her are (from left) co-founder Nelson Lim, chief executive and co-founder Alfred Tham, and Mr Joe Chua, manager of TranZplus Engineering, I.F.F.I.'s parent company. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu visiting vegetable farm I.F.F.I. on Tuesday. With her are (from left) co-founder Nelson Lim, chief executive and co-founder Alfred Tham, and Mr Joe Chua, manager of TranZplus Engineering, I.F.F
ComCrop's chief executive Peter Barber explaining the rooftop farm's hydroponic system to Ms Fu, while Singapore Food Agency CEO Lim Kok Thai looked on, during a visit to the farm on Tuesday.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Seven have accepted S'pore Food Agency offer; funds to help bring AI to farms, among other uses

Nine urban farms have been offered a total of $39.4 million by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) as part of efforts to support the growth of local agri-food enterprises and ramp up local food production over the next six to 24 months.

The amount was made available through the "30x30 Express" grant launched by SFA on April 17. The aim of the grant is to meet 30 per cent of Singapore's nutritional needs with food produced locally by 2030.

More than 40 proposals were received by the closing date on May 29, and SFA said the nine farms used highly productive farming systems that could be constructed and implemented quickly to achieve high production levels.

The proposals were assessed on benchmarks such as productivity, project feasibility, economic viability and the farms' capabilities.

SFA said it had to increase the original $30 million budget for the grant to almost $40 million to support the nine companies' proposals.

Seven farms have accepted the SFA offer - vegetable farms ComCrop, Green Harvest, I.F.F.I, LivFresh, Genesis One Tech Farm and VertiVegies, and egg farm Chew's Agriculture.

The funds will go towards projects such as building more greenhouses and bringing artificial intelligence (AI) to high-tech farms.

SFA said the companies will be able to tap the grant to defray costs while accelerating their expansion.

For instance, I.F.F.I will set up a mega high-tech indoor vegetable farm that depends on AI to monitor the growth of its leafy greens, along with an advanced environmental control system to ensure optimum yield all year round. The farm will also use an innovative water treatment system that reduces the amount of bacteria in crops and extends the shelf life of its produce.

Singapore's first rooftop greenhouse farm, ComCrop, will build an additional 2,000 sq m of greenhouse space to produce 200 tonnes of leafy greens a year - up from 20 tonnes now - through automation.

Crops such as chye sim and lettuce are currently grown hydroponically in holes in pipes, and each pipe has to be manually carried.

ComCrop's chief executive Peter Barber said: "To make the upcoming greenhouses more space-efficient and less labour-intensive, we will use a conveyor-based system where the pipes - located side by side - will move through the greenhouse on their own, and slightly move apart from each other as the veggies get bigger."

Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, said: "Supporting our agri-food industry and augmenting their production capabilities remain a key strategy in strengthening Singapore's food supply resilience." SFA has also urged consumers to buy local.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2020, with the headline 'Nine farms offered $40m in push to grow local'. Print Edition | Subscribe