As a small, highly-urbanised island with no agricultural hinterland, Singapore depends heavily on imported food to keep its population healthy and well fed. Over 90% of the food on our tables is imported, with local farmers producing only 8% of the vegetables and fish, and 26% of the eggs eaten in Singapore.
On the surface, there appears to be no reason for concern – Singapore is ranked second on the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Food Security Index, and first in Asia – but Singapore’s near-total reliance on imported food makes Singapore’s food security vulnerable. Risks include pest or disease outbreaks in suppliers’ country, supply chain interruptions and higher local demand that reduces the amount of food for export.
On a macro level, food security is a major challenge in Asia, which is already home to 67% of the world’s undernourished people. The nature of the challenge is also changing due to the region’s expanding middle class. As the region becomes wealthier, this middle class will consume more food, which will require more land, energy and water.
Without an increase in supply, the growing demand and strain on resources will push up food prices, and the above risks potentially damage Singapore’s food security. It is vital that Singapore develops a reliable domestic food source.
Growing local food security
To address this challenge, Professor Paul Teng, Principal at the National Institute for Education, points to urban farming. He said: “The question is not `should we do urban farming’, but `how much urban farming should we do?’”
As if answering this question, a number of urban farms have emerged in Singapore over the past five years, showing what Singapore can do for its own food security.
Sky Greens, the world’s first low-carbon, hydraulic-driven vertical farm, launched its first prototype in 2011. From an initial batch of 205 vertical growing towers, the company now has over 1,000 towers in Singapore, and additional facilities in Thailand and China.
Growing greens on a land-scarce island
In the bustling metropolis that is Singapore, a wave of urban farming is slowly but surely changing the way urbanites perceive farming. Photojournalist Ray Chua takes a closer look at one of Singapore’s vertical farms.