Ms Low Khah Gek, CEO of the Institute of Technical Education (ITE)
Mr Takeshi Tsukui, Director of Advanced Agriculture of Japan’s Shizuoka Prefecture,
Mr Teng Theng Dar, Adviser to External Relations of Japan’s Shizuoka Prefecture
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good morning. I am very happy to be here with everyone at the 3rd Singapore-Shizuoka Agri Food Forum. To our Japanese delegates – welcome to Singapore.
Singapore-Shizuoka Agri Food Forum (SSAFF)
The global food system has been going through a turbulent and challenging time, especially in recent years. Heatwaves and erratic weather patterns caused by climate change have affected crop yield; geopolitical tensions such as the war in Ukraine has resulted in supply disruptions; and the energy crises such as the one in Europe has caused prices of agriculture essentials including fertilisers and transportation to escalate, causing price inflation. Global population continues to rise, resulting in ever increasing global demand for food.
For these reasons, we must act quickly and strengthen our food security. I am happy that we are gathered here today to address this alongside our friends from the Shizuoka Prefecture in Japan.
Singapore’s Food Security Strategy
Singapore imports more than 90% of our food supplies. This makes us vulnerable to global supply shocks and disruptions. We thus take on a multi-pronged approach to ensuring our food security, through strategies such as Growing Local.
Local produce provides Singapore with a means to mitigate the impact of food supply disruptions. We have set an ambitious “30 by 30” goal to build our agri-food industry’s capacity and capability to sustainably produce 30 per cent of our nutritional needs by 2030. With limited land and resources, we need to produce food in a productive, climate-resilient and resource-efficient way. Technology and innovation are critical enablers in ensuring sustainable food production. We are boosting agriculture research and technology adoption, as well as developing a pipeline of local talent to support this growth.
Support for Singapore’s Agri Tech Startup
Both Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and Singapore Food Agency (SFA) have put in place various initiatives to support the growth of the agri-food tech start-up ecosystem and support the industry to leverage R&D and technology in their production.
One example is Arianetech [pronounced as eh-ree-ah-n-tech], a local system provider specialising in agriculture lighting and indoor farm system integration is. They have supported the set-up of high-tech farms such as Genesis One Tech Farm (GoFarm) and the Horticulture Technology Hub at ITE College East. They are also actively pursuing internationalisation opportunities in Japan, where they worked with Japanese clients to establish a smart farm in Miyagi prefecture. Their proprietary LED grow lights have also supported Niimi Mentec Blueberry Plant Factory in Okayama to grow bigger blueberries in a shorter production cycle while increasing the antioxidant content and sweetness of the fruit.
We hope to be able to announce more collaborations between Arianetech and Shizuoka prefecture in the coming years.
In addition, GoFarm was also one of the recipients of SFA’s ‘30 by 30’ Express grant that helps farms fast track their production. GoFarm leverages technology to increase its efficiency and enhance its productivity and sustainability. For example, with the adoption of nutrient film technology and an irrigation system which re-circulates water-based nutrients through the system, the farm uses 95 per cent less water than conventional deep water-based hydroponic farming. With this technology in place today this vertical farm is able to sustainably produce up to six hundred kilogrammes of fresh vegetables daily in an area smaller than 1,000 square metres.
IHL’s Partnership with Shizuoka Prefecture
As we continue building our agri-tech industry in Singapore, partnerships across governments, the industry and institutions will remain important. I am heartened to know that our Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs): Nanyang Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic, Temasek Polytechnic and ITE, have taken a leap to support the agrifood industry proactively even beyond our shores. This is over and above their core mission to train and develop talent for the industry. They have responded readily to the call to prepare the industry in this new area by building new capabilities and offering training programmes to equip our workforce with new skills required for the agri-tech industry.
Our partnership with the Shizuoka Prefecture proves to be valuable too. At the inaugural Singapore-Shizuoka Agri Food Forum in 2020, Sustenir, Singapore’s largest indoor vertical farm, initiated a collaboration with Masuda Seeds to bring Japanese Kale into Singapore.
In 2016, I had the opportunity to visit Japan with some of our farmers to study Japanese indoor farming systems. By taking a science-based approach, Japanese farmers were able to make informed decisions to optimise production. For example, we saw how the Japanese farmers incorporated information and communications technology to monitor and provide real time information on the growing conditions that could improve production. The Japanese farmers also shared the different business, operations, systems considerations that they took to embark on high-tech farming. It was a fruitful trip that exposed us to innovative technology and networks that our industry can leverage to collaborate and develop solutions and systems to optimise productions.
Our farms have been transforming and adopting advanced technology too. For example, a local farm, Indoor Farm Factory Innovation (I.F.F.I – pronounced as eye-fai) has tapped on technology and data to increase the productivity of their farming.
Their first mega indoor farm in Singapore spans 38,000 square feet and focuses primarily on soil-based cultivation, producing vegetables in a 14-tier vertical farming system in a fully-controlled, pesticide-free environment. Through the adoption of technology, I.F.F.I’s real-time dashboard is able to integrate farming data and analytics for resource optimisation and operational planning. I’m heartened to see how the farming landscape in Singapore has changed over the years and more farms are leveraging on technology to transform production towards our ‘30 by 30’ goal.
There is so much science behind high-tech farming and collaborations will continue to support our farms as they shift towards harnessing technology to overcome our land and resource constraints. I look forward to the many more mutual exchanges with Shizuoka Prefecture to strengthen our research capability and bring more innovations for the agri-food industry beyond this forum.
I encourage our local farmers, farming enthusiasts and entrepreneurs to work with the IHLs and tap on this partnership with Shizuoka to grow your capabilities and explore opportunities to venture into the global market.
Singapore’s agri-tech industry will and needs to continue growing to contribute towards strengthening Singapore’s food resilience. Our IHLs play a crucial role in the overall agri-food ecosystem and are vital catalysts to transform the sector. I applaud the IHLs for your efforts in ensuring that the industry has a talent pipeline of agri-food workforce through the relevant Pre-Employment Training (PET) and Continuing Education Training (CET) programmes in agriculture and aquaculture.
With that, let me thank all of you for coming together for this Singapore-Shizuoka Agri-Food Forum today. I hope you will seize the many opportunities to exchange knowledge at this forum. Thank you.