Republic Polytechnic launches course to groom high-tech farmers

Republic Polytechnic second-year biotechnology students Lim Wei Han (left), 20, and Jocelyn Tew Zhi Ning, 19, inspecting plant growth in the hydroponic system at the Agriculture Technology Laboratory.
Republic Polytechnic second-year biotechnology students Lim Wei Han (left), 20, and Jocelyn Tew Zhi Ning, 19, inspecting plant growth in the hydroponic system at the Agriculture Technology Laboratory. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

A new course here aims to train the next generation of high-tech farmers so that Singapore can produce more of its own food.

The Diploma in Applied Science in Urban Agricultural Technology, launched by Republic Polytechnic (RP) on Wednesday, is the first full-qualification diploma course in agricultural technology in Singapore.

The course was developed by RP, in consultation with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore, to develop a local core agriculture workforce with modern agricultural knowledge and techniques to drive the sector's growth and transformation.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon spoke at the launch of the diploma, which was held together with the opening of the polytechnic's Agriculture Technology Laboratory.

Dr Koh highlighted the need for a new generation of talent in agricultural technologies, to turn Singapore into a leading Asia hub for urban agriculture and aquaculture technologies.

The growth of the Republic's urban agriculture and aquaculture sector is also an essential pillar in upholding Singapore's food supply resilience, he added.

"As a small country where land is a scarce resource, Singapore has always had limited land space for domestic food production," said Dr Koh, adding that Singapore might be affected by global food supply developments and disruptions.

He added that Singapore's local farms produce just 10 per cent of food fish, 13 per cent of vegetables and 27 per cent of eggs consumed here. But he is confident that these percentages will continue to grow, with technological developments and more young farmers joining the industry through avenues such as RP's urban agriculture diploma.

The first batch of 25 students will start the part-time diploma course in June. These students will be taught five modules, with a focus on agricultural technologies for food production, farming process and management, urban farming technology and systems, agribusiness, and sustainable farming.

The programme's first run also involves eight local farms: Citizen Farm, ComCrop, Farm 85 Trading, Koh Fah Technology Farm, Liteleaf, Nippon Koi Farm, Sustenir Agriculture, and Vegeponics.

The farms will give students in the course on-the-job training opportunities and internships.

The course comes in two formats - one for fresh Institute of Technical Education graduates to build on what they have learnt in school, and the other for adult learners who want to switch to, or further their careers in, the agro-technology and agri-business sector.

RP's new Agriculture Technology Laboratory will give students in the diploma course in-house, hands-on training. The laboratory will also be used as a platform for workshops, industry-relevant projects and research in agriculture technology to incubate solutions to enhance productivity in farms.

It features technologies used in the farming industry today, including vertical farming towers irrigated by a nutrient tank and a horizontal hydroponic system irrigated by shallow tubes.

The laboratory also displays the hydroponic deep water culture system, where the roots of plants are submerged in a nutrient solution, and an energy-efficient substrate growing system.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2019, with the headline Republic Polytechnic launches course to groom high-tech farmers. Subscribe