Nine multi-storey carpark rooftops in Singapore to be converted to urban farms

Citiponics co-founder Danielle Chan at the local agri-tech firm's carpark rooftop farm in Ang Mo Kio. The company plans to take part in the latest tender and expand its production capacity, but that will depend on further on-site assessments.
Citiponics co-founder Danielle Chan at the local agri-tech firm's carpark rooftop farm in Ang Mo Kio. The company plans to take part in the latest tender and expand its production capacity, but that will depend on further on-site assessments.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Local agri-tech firm Citiponics' vertical farming plot at the multi-storey carpark rooftop at Block 700 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6.
Local agri-tech firm Citiponics' vertical farming plot at the multi-storey carpark rooftop at Block 700 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - The rooftops of a handful of multi-storey carparks in Singapore will be converted for use to farm vegetables and other food crops from the later part of this year.

The tender for nine such sites was launched on Tuesday (May 12) by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA). 

They include five single sites in Ang Mo Kio, Tampines, Toa Payoh, Hougang, and Choa Chu Kang and two cluster sites - which comprises two sites each - in Sembawang and Jurong West. The size of the sites ranged from 1,808 sq m - or one-third of a football field - to 3,311 sq m - or three-fifths of a football field. 

Each site is up for tender for a term of three years. For cluster sites, the successful tenderer will be awarded all sites within the cluster.

The launch is one of the strategies adopted by the SFA to increase local food production as part of Singapore's 30 by 30 goal - to produce 30 per cent of the country's nutritional needs locally by 2030, said SFA and the Housing Board (HDB) in a joint statement.

Last month, SFA also launched the 30 x 30 Express grant to help local farms accelerate the production of fish, leafy vegetables and eggs over the next six to 24 months. Local farms produced about 14 per cent of leafy vegetables, 26 per cent of eggs and 10 per cent of fish consumed in the country last year.

The ongoing battle against the Covid-19 outbreak and the resultant lockdowns imposed in many countries around the world have put the spotlight on Singapore's dependence on food imports and its vulnerability to global supply shocks. The Republic currently imports more than 90 per cent of its food supply.

During the supplementary budget debate last month, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said that Covid-19 also underscored the importance of further strengthening Singapore's supply chain resilience and food security. He added that the Government will continue to ensure a stable supply of food and essential items by having a robust, multi-pronged strategy.

SFA said that it will continue to work with HDB to launch more multi-storey carpark rooftop sites for urban farming by public tender in the second half of this year, a move that is also in line with HDB's Green Towns Programme, which seeks to cool HDB towns through the use of greenery, such as on carpark rooftops.

Last month, the SFA said that it was also working to identify other spaces on the island - apart from multi-storey carparks - suitable for commercial farming, including industrial sites.

Mr Melvin Chow, senior director of SFA' s food supply resilience division, said that the launch of the tender for the nine sites comes in the wake of growing interest from the industry and the public towards urban farming in community spaces, following the launch of the agency's pilot multi-storey carpark rooftop farm in Ang Mo Kio last year.

 
 
 

"Residents in the area have been able to enjoy fresh produce from the farm at nearby supermarkets, and can witness first-hand the hard work involved in bringing our food from farm to fork," said Mr Chow.

Mr Teo Hwa Kok, founder of Citiponics, said that his company planned to take part in the latest tender and expand its production capacity beyond its Ang Mo Kio site, but that would be dependent on further on-site assessments.

He added that prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, various government organisations already had plans to open up such alternative spaces for food production but the decision to bring them forward in the light of the current situation showed "incredible support" in driving food resilience in Singapore.

Food security expert, Professor Paul Teng, said that the launch of the tender was a timely one as any additional space would mean more production in the short term.

"Initiatives like this are never too late as it is possible to convert unused space - such as rooftops - into productive vegetable gardens yielding produce for consumption or sale within as short a time as six months," he said.

 
 
 

The success of rooftop farms, however, will depend on many factors, including the choice of vegetables to grow and the growing method, Prof Teng added.

"While a dozen or so rooftop farms may not significantly affect the availability of vegetables as a whole in the country, any amount that is locally produced goes that extra step to reduce our dependency on imports.

"It also builds up the spirit of self-sufficiency and valuing fresher produce with low energy footprints."

More details on the tender are available on GeBiz and on SFA's website.