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Singapore: From sky farms to lab-grown shrimp

Singapore: From sky farms to lab-grown shrimp
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At Sustenir Agriculture's indoor farm in Singapore (Photo: Reuters)

Singapore (VNA) – As Singapore, an unlikely place for farming revolution, aims to boost agricultural production and rely less on imports to feed its 5.6 million people, the country has developed tiered fish farms, vegetable plots atop office buildings and lab-grown shrimp.

Singapore produces about 10 percent of its food; however, as climate change and population growth threatens global food supplies, it eyes to raise that to 30 percent by 2030 under a plan called “30-by-30”.

The country has not given a total pricetag for “30-by-30” first unveiled in March, but it has various funding schemes. Besides Temasek, the government has set aside 144 million SGD (104 million USD) for research and development into food, and 63 million SGD for agriculture firms to use technology to boost productivity.

As for Singapore, a tiny island state in Southeast Asia, the challenge is space. With only 1 percent of the country’s 724 square km land devoted to agriculture and production costs higher than the rest of the region, urban farmers have to seek solutions to the government’s call to grow more with less expenditure.

Paul Teng, a professor specialising in agriculture at Nanyang Technological University, said that space, not land, is the key to ensuring food security in Singapore.

Sustenir Agriculture is one of the more than 30 vertical farms in Singapore, which has seen a doubling in so-called sky farms in three years. The hydroponic farm cultivates non-native varieties like kale, cherry tomatoes and strawberries indoors under artificial lights and sells the produce to local supermarkets and online grocers.

Susternir mobilised 22 million SGD from backers like Temasek and Australia’s Grok Ventures this year, which will be used for an expansion in Singapore and opening in Hong Kong.

Temaesek also provides funds for Apollo Aquaculture Group, which is building highly automated, eight-storey fish farm. The new farm will deliver more than a 20-fold increase in its annual output of 110 tonnes of fish.

One Singaporean firm sill in its infancy but hoping to reach a mass market is Shiok Meats, which aims to be the world’s first to sell shrimp grown from cells in a lab. After raising 4.6 million SGD in seed funding this year, the company plans to sell its product in one or two premium restaurants by late 2020, and by 2030 hopes to produce enough shrimp meat to feed Singapore.-VNA

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