Almost one-third of the food that Singapore needs will be home-grown by 2030. This will include vegetables cultivated in climate-controlled greenhouses under special LED lighting to maximise yields, and fish farmed at sea in contained systems to shield them against toxic algae blooms and oil spills.
Announcing the ambitious "30 by 30" goal yesterday to produce 30 per cent of Singapore's nutritional needs locally by 2030, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli told Parliament that this calls for new solutions to raise productivity.
The agri-food industry would also have to apply research and development, strengthen climate resilience and overcome resource constraints, he added.
Technologies such as indoor multi-storey LED lighting for vegetable farms and indoor multi-storey recirculating aquaculture systems can produce 10 to 15 times more than traditional outfits. And high-tech farms can be less labour-intensive as well.
"Farmers of the future will operate computerised control systems in a pleasant environment," Mr Masagos said during the debate on his ministry's budget.
One local first-mover is Barramundi Asia, which uses large sea cages to farm fish in the deep waters off Pulau Semakau. Using technology, it can vaccinate 9,000 fish an hour, a far cry from the 600 fish an hour if by hand.
Over at egg farm N&N Agriculture, a fully automated system is used for crate washing, packing eggs and wrapping egg trays, saving thousands of man hours.
The need to bolster the Republic's food security through agri-technology could not be more urgent.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates widespread declines in crop yields of up to a quarter by 2050 due to global warming. Singapore, which imports over 90 per cent of its food, wants to be less vulnerable to the volatility of the global food market.
So, local production is one of the key thrusts as the nation plans to grow its three food baskets: growing local, growing overseas and diversifying food sources.
To train more farmers of the future, institutes of higher learning are ramping up courses and training in the field. Temasek Polytechnic, for example, will be launching a Centre of Innovation in Aquaculture.
Those in the industry believe the 30 by 30 goal, while tough, is achievable.
Mr Malcolm Ong, chief executive officer of fishery company The Fish Farmer, one of Singapore's largest fish production farms, said his company will be working with the Government and educational institutions to research ways to ramp up intensive fish farming.
"We have to do much more intensive farming, and get all our farms to do it," he said. "I think it is definitely challenging, but doable."
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