Urban Agriculture in Singapore
Singapore, a small island city-state with limited agricultural land, has embraced urban agriculture to address its unique food security challenges and create a sustainable food ecosystem.
In 2022, the island boasted 257 food farms, primarily located in the countryside region, striving to contribute to the local food production scene.
Vulnerability to Supply Shocks and Disruptions
Singapore’s agricultural development is restrained by its compact size, with less than 1% of its land designated for farming. A huge portion of its food supply, about 90%, is imported from over 170 countries (Agri Farming, 2021), leaving Singapore exposed to global supply chain risks and disruptions. Urban agriculture in Singapore includes three main products, namely fish and seafood, vegetables, and eggs (Hirschmann, 2022). High production costs, low profitability due to small farm sizes, and an aging agricultural workforce challenge the development of urban agriculture in the country. To ensure maximum productivity in a limited amount of space, Singapore has adopted novel agri-tech and urban farming solutions, such as rotating vertical fish farms, tiered indoor hydroponics farms, and rooftop vegetable gardens (ibid.).
Picture credit: Sky Greens vertical farm in Singapore (Reuters)
The “30 by 30” Initiative. An Innovative Approach by the Government
In response to these challenges, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) launched the inspiring "30 by 30" initiative in 2019 (Z. Gossamer et al., 2021). This initiative leverages technology-driven solutions to increase local food production by a substantial 30% by 2030, effectively enhancing food security. Utilising advanced techniques, Singapore aims to produce large volumes of food within confined spaces, maximising efficiency and sustainability. Moreover, the encouragement to convert public housing rooftops into farming spaces from the government demonstrates a commitment to innovative land use for the benefit of the public.
Edible Garden City. Fostering Resilience and Food Connection
Initiatives like Edible Garden City are typical examples of the rise of urban farming in Singapore. The movement started establishing small gardens in 2012 and evolved into a sustainable community farm − the larger and more structured Citizen Farm − in 2017. Edible Garden City not only cultivates greens, herbs, microgreens, and mushrooms but also provides urban garden consultancy, training and workshops, and tours. By collaborating with diverse communities and teaching essential farming skills, this social enterprise has established over 200 edible gardens, fostering a deeper connection to food, and enhancing community resilience.
Sky Greens. Elevating Agriculture, Literally
A noteworthy example of Singapore’s commitment to innovative urban agriculture is the
partnership between the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and Sky Greens. This collaboration led to the development of “A Go-Grow” vertical farming system. This innovative approach involves aluminium towers with rotating tiers, enabling efficient plant growth and water usage. The success of this system is evident, as it yields up to 30 kg of vegetables per square metre daily, in stark contrast to the 2 to 3 kg per square meter from traditional farms. With just three individuals required for daily harvests, Sky Greens’ approach exemplifies the efficiency and productivity of vertical farming, and its benefits for the environment (K. Seneviratne, 2012).
Singapore’s journey into urban agriculture proves the power of innovation and adaptability in the face of limited resources. Through initiatives like the “30 by 30” campaign and collaborations with forward-thinking enterprises like Edible Garden City and Sky Greens, Singapore is not only addressing its food security challenges but also creating a blueprint for urban agriculture that resonates globally.