Tenders awarded to turn 9 HDB carpark rooftops into urban farming sites

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 - Parked cars will soon make way for growing vegetables as tenders were awarded for urban farming at nine carpark rooftops by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) on Wednesday (Sept 30).

The sites, which are rooftops of Housing Board multi-storey carparks, comprise five single sites and two clusters of two sites each. They were awarded to six tenderers.

Each site has a term of up to three years.

The highest tender of $90,000 for annual rent was awarded to IT Meng Landscape and Construction for a cluster site in Jurong West, with one site spanning a total area of 3,311 sq m - three-fifths of a football field - and the other at 2,974 sq m.

Other carpark locations include Choa Chu Kang, Tampines, Hougang, Ang Mo Kio, Toa Payoh and Sembawang.

SFA chief executive Lim Kok Thai said: "The successful tenderers' proposals included hydroponic and vertical farming systems with a variety of innovative features such as IoT (Internet of Things), blockchain technology and automated climate control.

"With these farming systems, the sites have the potential to collectively produce around 1,600 tonnes of vegetables annually."

He added: "We look forward to seeing these HDB multi-storey carpark rooftops transform into productive vegetable farms that will contribute to Singapore's '30 by 30' goal, and we will render assistance and guidance to farms where needed."

The 30 by 30 goal refers to Singapore's aim to produce 30 per cent of the country's nutritional needs locally by 2030.

Ms Phoebe Xie, 30, director and co-founder of local urban technology company AbyFarm, was one of the six who successfully tendered for the carpark rooftop spaces.

With the 3,171 sq m site at Ang Mo Kio, the company hopes to begin construction of the farm in the next few months, and to have its launch date within the first half of next year.

Using a combination of hydroponics and aeroponics vertical farming methods, the farming process is expected to use 90 per cent less water, and it is said to be 10 times more productive compared to traditional methods.

"The farm will be entirely automated, with real-time technology used to control the environment within the green house, and to consistently monitor the crops and early identify the possibility of bad crops, which will ensure the quality of our crops," she said.

With an expected yield of 200 tonnes of fruits and vegetables each year, the company is looking to harvest local favourites, such as kang kong and kailan as well as other types of produce such as mushrooms, figs and Japanese melon.

Co-founder of SG Veg Farms Eyleen Goh, 46, who secured a cluster site at Sembawang, said the company is expecting around 80 to 100 tonnes of vegetables per site each year.

The company will be selling most of its produce to nearby supermarkets, though it hopes to host weekend markets for residents to buy its vegetables.

Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that "the challenges of Covid-19 and climate change, together with other trade and environmental pressures, pose a threat to Singapore's supply of critical resources such as food".

As land is scarce in Singapore, the SFA has been "unlocking alternative spaces to grow food, such as vacant buildings, like the former Henderson Secondary School and carpark rooftops".

"Over the next few years, we will be master-planning the larger Lim Chu Kang area and will be engaging the stakeholders and the public in the process," she said, adding that there are longer term plans in place to "expand agriculture in the Lim Chu Kang area and aquaculture off (Singapore's) southern coast".

Mr Melvin Chow, senior director of SFA's food supply resilience division, said in May that the launch of the tender for the nine sites came as a result of growing interest from both the industry and the public towards urban farming in community spaces.

Last year, a pilot urban farm - spanning 1,900 sq m - was launched at a multi-storey HDB carpark in Ang Mo Kio. Known as the Citiponics Farm, it aims to grow up to four tonnes of vegetables a month.

The tender for the nine sites, which was launched on May 12, had closed on June 16, and the sites were awarded using the price-quality tender method, where both the bid price and the quality attributes, such as production output, design and site layout, as well as business and marketing plans, were factored into the tender evaluation.

The SFA said it will be working with HDB to tender out more multi-storey carpark rooftop sites for urban farming in the fourth quarter of the year, as the move is also in line with HDB's Green Towns Programme to cool HDB towns through the use of greenery, such as on carpark rooftops.

More details of these plans for tender will be released at a later date.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.