Nine high-tech farms in Singapore awarded nearly $40 million to ramp up food production

Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu with ComCrop CEO Peter Barber during a visit to the farm. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

SINGAPORE - 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 agrifood 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 the SFA on April 17 this year. The aim of the grant was to meet 30 per cent of Singapore's nutritional needs with food produced locally by 2030.

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

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

SFA had to increase its original $30 million budget for the grant to close to $40 million to support the nine companies' proposals, said the agency in a press release on Wednesday (Sept 9).

Seven of the nine companies have accepted the SFA offer.

They are 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 additional greenhouses, leveraging technology and automation to reduce manpower, and bringing artificial intelligence to high-tech farms.

SFA said the companies awarded the grant will be able to tap it 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 the crops and extends the shelf life of its produce.

Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, said: "While we continue to plan to tackle our long-term challenges, we also need to respond swiftly to the immediate global food supply challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Supporting our agri-food industry and augmenting their production capabilities remains a key strategy in strengthening Singapore's food supply resilience," she added.

Farms in Singapore can tap on SFA's existing Agriculture Productivity Fund (APF), which aims to help them modernise and adopt advanced farming systems, as well as co-fund the test-bedding of technologies.

Enterprise Singapore has also set aside over $55 million to help local agriculture and aquaculture companies build new capabilities and innovate to grow more with less.

SFA has also urged consumers to buy local.

"We urge consumers to support our local farms and buy local produce, which can be identified easily by our new SG Fresh Produce logo," said Mr Lim Kok Thai, SFA chief executive officer.

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