Farming – which barely makes a blip as an industry in land-scarce Singapore – may see a surge yet. In May, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore announced that it would tender 36 plots of farmland totalling 60ha, with priority given to high-tech farmers.
Desmond Khoo, the 30-year-old CEO of Eden Purelyfresh Farm, is prepped for the new direction. Earlier this year, he began experimenting with multi-tier farming on his 1.6ha farmland, where he grows a variety of vegetables including bok choy, choy sum and spinach. Compared to traditional, manual-intensive ways, multi-tier farming sees seedlings grown indoors on layered shelves and watered using an automated timer, therefore increasing productivity while reducing manpower costs.
“The Government is trying to help farmers digitise and that’s the only way forward,” says Khoo, who has been farming for 15 years. He adds that as only 600ha of land in Singapore – less than 1 per cent of the country – is allocated for farming, it is vital for farmers to maximise its use. “Instead of being known as the nation with the most farmland, we can be the one with the best technology to produce the most vegetables per hectare,” he says.
For now, he is experimenting with the latest science, such as incorporating Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity into farm operations. IoT links devices – such as thermostats – that are not normally considered computers to the Internet, allowing them to generate and exchange data with minimal human intervention, thereby vastly increasing efficiency.