Until the 1970s nearly 1 in every 10 Singaporeans was directly or indirectly engaged in fishing or farming activities. Due to rapid urbanization in the 70s and 80s, land-use patterns and occupations changed, and land dedicated to agricultural activities dropped significantly, causing production costs to become much higher than the rest of Southeast Asia.
With minimal land under farming, the densely populated city-state produced less than 10% of its nutritional needs, the rest being met through imports.
However, keeping in mind factors such as climate change and population growth, in the last few years the Singaporean government decided to boost local food supplies. The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) set up the Agriculture Productivity Fund (APF) of S$63 million in 2014. Of the total amount, the majority was earmarked for developments to improve productivity in existing farms, while roughly S$10 million was set aside for research and development in innovative production technologies.
In early 2019, the SFA launched the “30 by 30” campaign whose objective is for Singapore to meet 30% of its nutritional needs locally by 2030. The campaign works through additional grants and incentives promoting urban agricultural innovation to support production of vegetables, eggs and fish using all available spaces, no matter the size.
An additional S$ 3-4 million dollars was allocated to the Landscape Productivity Grant, managed by the National Parks Board. Setting some criteria on the layout of the farms, operations and resultant output, the board ensures support in utilities costs such as potable water, electricity, telecommunications cables, sewage pipes and roadways.
In the apartment complexes that are government-funded, sections of rooftops and car parks have been designated as agricultural spaces.
Towards the end of 2019 the city had 220 farms meeting 14% demand for leafy vegetables, 26% demand for eggs and 10% demand for fish.
While encouraging citizens to join the movement to grow food in and around their homes, the SFA has also taken steps to promote consumption of fresher and more nutritive locally-produced foods. In 2020, they introduced the SFA Fresh Produce logo which will help consumers identify local produce in markets.
Numerous initiatives have cropped up across Singapore led by individuals, communities and businesses, which include:
- Agritech ventures like Apollo Aquaculture, Comcrops, Citiponics and Sustenir have successfully attracted a lot of media coverage as well as additional funding from government grants and investors.
- Fairmont Singapore and Swissôtel The Stamford, Singapore’s better-known hotels have started their own 450 sq.m. rooftop aquaponic farm. Using less water, space and labor than standard farming methods the hotels are able to supply edible flowers, vegetables and fish to their restaurants. The gardeners and chefs work together to plan what’s to be grown every 3-4 weeks.
- Edible Garden City (EGC) – What was once the Queenstown Remand Prison holding 1000 inmates has transformed into a space with an abundance of fragrant herbs and colourful vegetables.
EGC maintains a balance of agri-tech and natural farming methods in their operations. Compost for soil regeneration, permaculture techniques, climate controlled environments and hydroponics too.
- Foodscape Collective works with local communities to convert underutilized public spaces into edible community gardens using natural farming methods.
Numerous educational, residential and professional institutions within the city-state have invited EGC and Foodscape Collective to educate and transform spaces available to them.
Other than its aim to increase domestic production for strengthening the ability to sustain itself; due to a weighted focus on Agri-Tech innovation, Singapore also seeks to export its technological advancements to other countries.