June 21, 2024

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Inspired by Technology

How Singapore’s agritech startups help strengthen domestic food security


Very last month, Malaysia declared a hen export ban in an energy to command prices of domestically sold hen. Singaporeans were being justifiably unsettled — Malaysian chicken is one of the three main sources of imported rooster in Singapore, with the other two becoming American and Brazilian imported hen.

When numerous of us who have grown up in this compact metropolis-condition have probable read, the ongoing narrative is Singapore is reliant on overseas trade to endure, but couple of us have in all probability found what the issue appears to be like like up shut and this current shift has been a rude wake-up call to numerous.

Not all have been caught off guard even though. Singapore’s government has basically been knowledgeable of the want to diversify our foods source, and regional output is component of that program.

The Singapore Foodstuff Company (SFA) has its individual targets as aspect of Singapore’s Environmentally friendly Plan 2030, which is their version of ‘30 by 30’. This will indicate that 30 per cent of our eaten foodstuff will be manufactured domestically by 2030. So how is this strategy coming along?

Farming hits the roof in Singapore

Numerous of us could be stunned to listen to that Singapore in fact has farmers — and these are not farmers from the kampung that many of us may think about when we assume of the agriculture market in Southeast Asia.

Rather, the agritech and agrifood sector in Singapore is quintessentially Singaporean, incorporating know-how in their processes in purchase to accomplish improved results. 

The clearest example of this is in city farming. In contrast to utilizing significant, open up tracts of land for crops, buildings come to be the crucial spot for agriculture in its place. Developing rooftops, or even custom-designed large-tech properties can be utilized to deliver food items and reduce Singapore’s dependence on international imports.

SFA and the Housing Improvement Board (HDB) have introduced a tender in Might 2020 for rooftop farms on public housing car parks.

For 1, Citiponics operates a 1,800 sq. metre farm atop a multi-storey carpark in Ang Mo Kio, increasing among three and 4 tonnes of pesticide-free of charge vegetables a month.

Established in 2016, Citiponics aims to expand safe produce by its zero-waste farming approach. It has a proprietary vertical farming engineering named Aqua-Natural and organic System (AOS) — this falls beneath a sound-primarily based soilless society, which is different from the likes of standard farming and hydroponic farming method.

danielle chan citiponics
Danielle Chan, co-founder of Citiponics / Impression Credit: Citiponics

It was made specifically for farming in near proximities to households and neighbourhoods.

Some of the rewards consist of it currently being a zero-waste farming method exactly where every single element is recyclable and reusable, in contrast to classic farming where you may produce wastage from soil and h2o use.

– Danielle Chan, co-founder of Citiponics

All of Citiponic’s farmed develop are segmented to house deliveries, nearby people, and chosen NTUC FairPrice retailers.

Citiponics is not the only startup that engages in city farming on rooftops. Nicholas Goh and his staff at Nature’s Worldwide Commodity are doing anything similar in Tampines. He was a single of the handful of who won the tender bid in May possibly 2020 to make rooftop farms on community housing carparks.

The Tampines carpark farm grows vegetables like xiao bai cai, kailan and bayam to cater to the use practices of locals.

urban farming nicholas goh
City farming works by using soil technology and relies on sensors to identify issues / Impression Credit rating: Nicholas Goh

In accordance to Nicholas, urban farming approaches vary from conventional farming. His enterprise utilizes its soil engineering — eco-helpful organic and natural fertilisers — to increase the greens. Nicholas also works by using sensors to help establish probable crop challenges, which he says will help him conserve time and funds.

“I feel in a strategic farming resolution, which is to do little, control properly and be strategically found. Urban farming defines that as a farm, as it supplies and nutritional supplements the wants of the residents,” he mentioned.

From farming on buildings to farming in structures

The plan of city farming can be taken even even further. What occurs if as an alternative of possessing city farming just on rooftops, entire buildings are custom created in buy to cater to the desires of urban farming?

A single enterprise that is undertaking this is Archisen — it’s an agritech startup in Singapore that is focused on producing greens these kinds of for area usage.

Image Credit: Archisen

According to co-founders Sven Yeo and Vincent Wei, “Food safety is an extension of Singapore’s 5 pillars of defence, and innovation and tech can preserve area make low-cost in the lengthy run.”

Urban farming is important for Singapore since of food stability. We noticed the outcomes of COVID-19 on the supply chain with vacant supermarket cabinets, and most recently, with the source concerns relating to Malaysian poultry. It obviously demonstrates the vulnerability of the provide chain to disruptions, and there are constrained alternatives to create resilience without the need of city farming in Singapore.

– Sven Yeo and Vincent Wei, co-founders of Archisen

In an attempt to raise nearby output, Archisen uses a large tech urban farm that is capable to imitate the ecosystem where by vegetation are naturally developed, and have by now made their very own urban farming operating process recognised as Cropdom.

They are also arranging to integrate automation into their urban farm, and develop the business enterprise with far more city farms.

Evidently, startups this kind of as these begin with an finish in head — to assistance Singapore realize some diploma of self-sustainability when it will come to food items protection, at the very least for veggies.

But our nearby dietary desires do not just consist of greens. What about meat and fish?

Aquaculture in Singapore

Singapore consumes 120,000 tonnes of seafood each calendar year — this amounts to about 16kg of fish for each human being. What’s even worse, numerous of the species that we eat are unsustainable owing to overfishing. So where can an alternative resource of fish be found? 

For Singapore, aquaculture can play a function. The course of action requires trying to keep and increasing fish, in advance of having them provided to the local sector for use.

Similar to city agriculture, technology here plays a vital position. Atlas Aquaculture, a land-primarily based aquaculture startup in Singapore, makes use of technology to make sure that the seafood that Singaporeans eat can be manufactured locally. 

atlas aquaculture
Picture Credit score: Atlas Aquaculture

Positioned in Sungei Tengah, they have a vast wide variety of specialists on internet site to make certain that their fish are of higher high-quality. 

The process that Atlas makes use of makes it possible for them to recycle and reuse over 95 for each cent of their water, which is another commodity with confined source in Singapore.

Having said that, the use of technological innovation is not constantly simple.

Protecting healthier drinking water high quality can take a huge total of scientific expertise and can be overwhelming for the frequent operator to tactic. Our very first edition of Recirculating Aquaculture Techniques used current parts from similar industries, only to discover that there was a lot improvement required.

We have given that customized designed new filtration components for our devices, and will be developing AI and device mastering soon. With real automation being monitored and controlled by AI, we can get rid of human error and increase performance.

– Kane McGuinn, founder and CEO of Atlas Aquaculture

Their tenacity and ingenuity also means that it is not only fish that aquaculture can make — related fish and maritime merchandise can also be manufactured. Atlas has by now properly managed to deliver mussels and oysters that enable filter the h2o, as perfectly as crops these as seaweed and sea grapes.

“We are doing work in the direction of Singapore’s purpose of 30 for every cent by 2030, but it is a monumental endeavor. It will choose a enormous sum of financial commitment and cooperation to even get shut to this intention,” he provides.

Expenditure in the agrifood and agritech industries

Of program, both equally city agriculture and aquaculture have their personal troubles. Supplied how technologically intense they are, cautious consideration is necessary for the further improvement of these programs. 

This area is a person where startups would value assistance in, but how is the financial commitment landscape like for these industries?

An investment lover at a enterprise cash firm that Vulcan Submit spoke to stated fairly frankly that the outlook was not quite optimistic — the impending economic downturn is predicted to hit every sector tricky, and the agritech sector is no diverse.

“The sectors are continue to modest, and VCs do not have a pretty potent appetite for agritech and agrifood startups for the time becoming,” he reasoned even further.

But these venture companies have causes for their uncertainties. For 1, the money-intense character of these startups could be a barrier to some buyers. 

A different challenge relates to the viability of agritech solutions. Significant prices of generation frequently translate into better value details for individuals when these products and solutions last but not least strike the cabinets, and enterprise companies see this as a important barrier for startups to defeat.  

Customers in Asia are principally worried with price tag fairly than the origin of the merchandise. Why would I fork out more if it delivers me the very same dietary benefit as standard decisions? Prices can be brought down, but we are not viewing that.

– Financial investment partner at a venture capital firm

Of system, this does not mean that the agritech and agrifood sectors can not anticipate any support when it comes to boosting money. The financial commitment spouse stated that there are various changes that VCs would like to see in these startups.

Firstly, he hopes that these startups properly reports their viewers to see if their business enterprise methods are nevertheless great. A further stage is for these startups to lower down on operation expenditures to reduce hard cash burn off.

“These improvements would truly incentivise VCs to rethink their assumptions about the field, and likely search a lot more favourably upon funding these startups.”

As Singapore moves in direction of increasing self-sufficiency for food items intake, lots of startups seem keen to support this pattern. But as we can see, it is not easy for them.

Significant tech expenditures appear to be to be a hindrance for them on a lot of amounts — it tends to make scaling tricky, and supplies a ‘Catch 22’ when exploring for funding. Buyers are unwilling to invest mainly because of the sum of funds essential to make them prosperous, but devoid of funding, development is hard.

There is hope nevertheless. These startups are also reporting that income have been encouraging, and costs for these goods are little by little matching up to customer expectations and a single working day, we could see a scenario the place these startups assistance Singaporeans offer with provide chain disruptions.

Highlighted Picture Credit score: Archisen


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