Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: The island nation is seeking to grow more of its own food domestically, and Wisconsin companies can aid in the transition.
Singapore is a small, high-income country that imports 90% of its food supply for its 5.6 million residents. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities in the global supply chain, and hence Singapore's food security. The Singapore government has undertaken several measures to counter this, most notably its present ambitious effort to raise food self-production levels from the current 10% to 30% of total food needs by 2030.
This initiative will be challenging due to Singapore’s space constraints. Currently, only two square kilometers (or less than 1%) of its total land area of 726 square kilometers is used for land-based food farms. In addition, the country also has limited water and human resources. To address these constraints, the government has implemented the following strategies:
- Release new farmland to applicants who propose the best concepts to raise production in an innovative, sustainable and intensive manner.
- Unlock more space for farms and explore alternative spaces for food production.
- Develop a pipeline of local agricultural talent.
- Leverage agricultural technologies.
To boost the implementation of these strategies, in April 2020, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) opened the $30 million SGD ($22 million USD) 30x30 Express Grant Program to help companies acquire technology and expertise in the agri-food industry to “grow more and grow faster” in the shortest possible time. Specifically, this program will allow companies to defray the up-front costs of expanding farm production capacity within the next 6 to 24 months and to co-fund productivity-enhancing technology systems. The grant is open to domestic producers of eggs, leafy vegetables and fish—food items commonly consumed in Singapore, and for which Singapore already has the capability to produce locally, and which also are more perishable and therefore susceptible to supply disruptions.
The 30x30 Express Grant will complement SFA’s existing $63 million SGD ($46 million USD) Agriculture Productivity Fund, set up in 2014 to help farms harness innovative technologies and co-fund research and development of new technologies. The Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 plan also allocated $144 million SGD ($105 million USD) to support R&D in sustainable urban farming, future foods and food safety science.
In June 2020, the country's enterprise development agency, Enterprise Singapore, also announced that it had set aside more than $55 million SGD ($40 million USD) to help local agriculture and aquaculture companies build new capabilities.
With the government's top-down approach to develop Singapore's agri-food sector, there are many ongoing and upcoming opportunities, particularly in agricultural technology (agritech), that suppliers from Wisconsin can benefit from. Some of these include:
- Technology matching by Enterprise Singapore, linking up system solution providers with farms
- Organizations looking for collaborations, such as Singapore’s Aquaculture Innovation Centre, which is currently seeking partnerships to help boost the country’s aquaculture production
- Companies seeking solutions, such as urban farm Sustenir, which is exploringdifferent ways of drying vegetables while retaining nutritional value, a zero-waste policy and using artificial intelligence to monitor plant growth and detect problems as early as possible
Several companies are also scaling up production and/or R&D that will require agritech solutions. In September 2020, SFA awarded six bidders the tender for rental of nine rooftop farming sites. The proposals of the six bidders cover technologies such as hydroponics, aeroponics, IoT, blockchain, automated climate control and water-conserving technologies, potentially allowing the sites to collectively produce 1,600 metric tons of vegetables annually. Moreover, the SFA is continuing to release more of such rooftop tenders, as well as tranches of farmland. Construction of these farms, including procurement of supplies, should begin soon.
In 2021, the first phase of an 18-hectare smart agriculture hub in Sungei Kadut, called Agri-Food Innovation Park, is set to open and is expected to bring more investments, agritech companies, talent, R&D and test bed activities into Singapore.
Educational institutions are also ramping up courses, training, student exchange and consulting services in the field.