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  • Nicholas Chew

Singapore's local farms - Will they be a success story?



“It is a shame that our local farms are valued solely for their economic production. Because they have so much more potential, to be a success story for Singapore.”

– Kenny Ng, president of the Kranji Countryside Association



Quick question, what are the best career options available in Singapore? Well, most of you would name the following: doctors, lawyers, bankers, engineers, etc. But what about… farmers? The majority see farming as a low-class job that will never provide a great life. However, we have seen what the Government of Singapore has introduced to make farming a story of success over the years.


In our second blog post, we talked about the strategies implemented in our modern-day farms, shedding it in a positive light. These blueprints gave us the ability to overcome space constraints with technology, use resources more efficiently, and lastly, to develop the next generation of Agri-tech specialists.


Today, we will conclude this three-part series by covering who these “Agri-talents” are, and the type of support our local farming industry receives.



Nurturing the next generation of farmers.


As you know, Singapore sets to accomplish the “30 by 30” goal, of producing 30% of our food locally by 2030. To do that, not only is financial aid required, but the grooming of our next generation to accomplish that task.


This “home” element of supporting local farms won't quite be fulfilled, without our own farmers to begin with. Thus, Singapore has initiated learning / educational programs to introduce new job opportunities in the agricultural industry.


For example, Republic Polytechnic was the first institute to launch a full-qualification course in urban agriculture just 2 years ago. This Diploma in Applied Science (Urban Agricultural Technology) aims to provide the knowledge and skills needed to operate in today’s farming industry. As a student from Republic Polytechnic, I am proud to say the least!


Source: Republic Polytechnic

Here’s something similar as well. AVA worked with Temasek Polytechnic to initiate a Diploma in Applied Science (Aquaculture) just 2 years ago. This course aims to teach the importance of aquaculture production and the skills required to operate in this industry. Instead of growing vegetables in Agri-tech farms, graduates can breed sustainable seafood solutions.


Source: Temasek Polytechnic

These courses are a huge stepping stone for many who dream of working in the agriculture/aquaculture sector. Seeing these new additions, we can expect even more educational programs to be launched in 2021, such as degrees and training classes in urban agriculture.



Financial support to enhance the agriculture industry.


To encourage more Singaporeans to follow the footsteps of these evolving farms, our government has provided plenty of support to this day. Since many are afraid of the costs required to start a farm, they have provided huge, and I mean huge funding schemes to encourage local farming. Here are some recent funding examples to show you how much financial aid is provided in this industry.



1) $63 million Agriculture Productivity Fund (APF) by the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore.


This funding system initiated by AVA aims to help local farmers in various ways. This includes one’s farm capabilities, productivity, marketing, and conducting R&D on technological innovation for their farms. Furthermore, AVA has made further enhancements to this scheme based on the feedback of our farmers. New additions comprise of:


  • Farm categories streamlined from 3 to 2 for easier reference. *Category 1 (eggs, leafy vegetables, bean sprouts, and fish farms), *Category 2 (all other types, such as poultry, frog, and seafood farms)

  • Funding cap for projects under the Productivity Enhancement (PE) scheme raised from $700,000 to $2 million. *Applies to category 1 farms*

  • PE scheme now includes a new test-bedding element, with a funding cap of $500,000 for category 1 farms and $100,000 for category 2 farms. Test-bedding refers to testing/developing the feasibility of implanting new farming technology in farms.


Source: Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore
Source: Kenneth Chan from Slide Share

2) A $30million 30X30 Express Grant by the Singapore Food Agency


SFA recently awarded nine urban farms with nearly half a billion dollars, as part of efforts to ramp up local food production over the next 24 months. These shortlisted farms were selected based on 4 factors including the:


  • Farm’s certainty and speed of implementing new additions

  • Farm’s level of productivity

  • Farm’s feasibility with the project and their economic viability

  • Farm’s track record and capacity to execute the project.


Source: Singapore Food Agency

Seeing how badly Covid-19 affected our food supplies, SFA decided to step into the situation to support our farming businesses. This provides the financial stability they need over the next decade, to reach Singapore’s 30 by 30 goal.


While other companies are shutting down, the farming sector continues to thrive. This is a huge sign for those interested, as it is never too late to be a part of this ever-growing industry!



Garnering support from the local community.


Source: ComCrop

Last but not least, our local community has taken great action in providing the keys to our future. AVA for one, consistently educates the public through roadshows and outreaches in schools/workplaces, about the merits of local produce. This strongly encourages people to appreciate and support urban farming throughout Singapore.


Fun fact, SFA made it official that residents are eligible to farm directly at their houses, even underneath their HDB flats. This includes entitling 2 free packs of seeds to all Singaporeans starting from June 18, 2020. Mr Yap Soy Kee, my grandfather, happens to be a self-farmer! Spending his retirement days on a newfound hobby, he grows a variety of vegetation, plants, and flowers. Here is a little photo essay of him at work and his passionately grown verdure.



Star of the show



Flora and a tad bit of fauna



Conclusion


As the farming industry looks to prosper over the years, Zeemart is excited to play our part in supporting it. We seek to connect the dots to bring farmers and buyers together, providing a frictionless way for both parties to collaborate and prosper. We hope that this series about Singapore’s urban agriculture industry has changed your perspective for the better! For the full series, do check out our blog under “Industry Insights”.


“Eventually, it will be the farmers driving the Lamborghinis. Mark my words!”

- Agricultural investor, Jim Rogers


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