The appetite for locally produced food is growing in Singapore as innovation and technological advances drive changes in where and how food is produced. As well as producing quality food and niche products, local farmers are importantly raising awareness about the quality of the food we eat. Here’s a roundup of what is available on the island, and where you can find it.
Singapore’s annual food production in numbers
- 243 farms covering 675 hectares produced $56 million’s worth of farm products. (In contrast, Australia has 31 million hectares under production.)
- Over 21,000 tonnes of vegetables were locally produced, while 514,000 tonnes were imported. 438 million hen eggs were produced locally; 1.25 billion were imported.
- On average, people consumed 93 kilograms of vegetables, 312 eggs and 70 kilograms of fruit.
Source: Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore. Statistics for 2013.
Vertical and indoor farming
Land scarcity has been one of the most significant issues in food production in Singapore, but this challenge is encouraging new thinking: vertical and indoor farming is now undertaken on a large scale. Roughly 30 countries have permits to import food into Singapore, and the country is 95 percent reliant on these products, but the aim is to reduce that figure.
Farming isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when Japanese technology multinational Panasonic is mentioned, yet the company has set up an indoor vegetable farm here that is the first such farm outside Japan. Under this pilot programme, and with the help of artificial LED lighting, the 248-square-foot premises annually produces 3.6 tonnes of 10 types of vegetables, including lettuce, rocket, basil and spinach, for export to Japan. The aim is to contribute five percent of all locally grown produce by 2017.
Another unlikely location for a garden is the concrete rooftop of the *SCAPE building in bustling Orchard Road. The sustainable, community-focused Living Project garden grows rows of crops in pipes that draw water from tanks below, simulating a freshwater lake ecosystem.
Not only is the Living Project cost-effective (transport and import costs are eliminated), but the contribution to community has been significant. Students from Victoria Junior College and Singapore Polytechnic have come together to work with aunties and uncles from the Tampines-Changkat district who are passing on their valuable gardening know-how from one generation to the next.
Commercial organisations engaged in unconventional farming include Edible Gardens, which grows high-value crops that fill a gap in the market for food not grown in Malaysia. Using sustainable growing methods, their gardens in Bishan and Kembangan minimise waste and encourage recycling, while providing produce to cafés such as Artichoke, Cajun Kings and Overdoughs. Their biggest challenge in producing organic food is pests; interestingly, over 80 percent of predators such as aphids, white fly and thrips are exotic species.
Sky Greens is a vertical farm defined by its towering nine-metre vertical greenhouses where local greens including xiao bai cai and kang kang are grown. High-rise farming can produce more food than flat land can, plus the protected environment of greenhouses enables year-round production.
Founded last year, Homegrw is already on the way to achieving its goal of making it possible for anyone, anywhere, to grow clean, economical food. Created by IT and farming experts, its aquaponics system is a fusion of hydroponics and aquaculture, to grow crops and raise aquatic animals. It’s a closed environment in which plants use the waste deposited in the water by fish as a source of nutrients, and these plants in turn act as a cleaning mechanism for the water. Human error is circumvented because it is fully automated system.
How to get involved
Green Drinks Singapore is a non-profit environmental society that started in London in 1989 with branches in over 600 cities. Everyone is welcome to attend informal talks and documentary screenings held on the last Thursday of every month.
With about 800 goats, Hay Dairies is a small farm where milk is pasteurised, homogenised and bottled. The milk is free from antibiotics, preservatives and growth hormones and can be purchase at the farm. Visitors are welcome from 9am to 4pm daily. 3 Lim Chu Kang, Agrotech Park Lane 4. 6792 0931
Is it organic?
Unfortunately, Singapore’s air pollution levels means local produce cannot be authenticated with an organic certification logo. While some produce is extremely close to being “organic”, the only genuine organic food is imported. Free-range eggs are available, though, produced by happy and healthy hens living in spacious and clean barns. The eggs aren’t totally organic, however, and may contain hormones and pesticides.
For more helpful tips head to our living in Singapore section.