In the 1960s, farmland occupied 14,000 hectares of land in Singapore. By 1988, this fell 2,037 hectares. Today, 90% of what we eat is imported, and only 1% of our land is available to agriculture.
While this means that Singapore has access to the global market of different types of food, it also exposes Singapore to the “volatilities of the global food market”, as then-Minister for Water, Environment and Resources Masagos Zulkifli said.
With this in mind, Singapore launched the “30 by 30” plan in 2019. Under this plan, we aim to produce 30% the food we consume by 2030.
This may seem daunting given that Singapore does not have large tracts of land to support farming activities. However, one way we have overcome these physical limitations is through agri-technology.
One early example is the Lim Chu Kang Agrotechnology Park, which situated in an area once well-known for its vast plantations. Phase One was built in 1989, and it supported the world’s first cultivation of temperate vegetables (such as lettuce) in a tropical climate. This model was replicated in places like Mandai, Nee Soon and Sungei Tengah in phases over time.
Another example is the Marine Aquaculture Centre (MAC), opened in 2003. The centre led to the development of a new breed of sea bass with a shorter incubation time and greater resistance to diseases. In one of its pilot tests, half a million of these fishes were hatched at St. John’s Island, nurtured in Indonesia, and then sent back to Singapore.
The latest agri-food push came in the form of a new 18-hectare site in Sungei Kadut in 2019. The Agri-Food Innovation Park at Sungei Kadut will bring together high-tech farming and R&D activities, including indoor plant factories, insect farms and animal feed production facilities. Enterprise Singapore has also announced that it is co-investing up to S$90 million in agri-tech start-ups.
Beyond simply ensuring Singapore’s food security, these efforts are also spurring greater economic activity, as Singapore positions itself to become a key player in the global $5 trillion agri-technology industry.