#Asia Innovation and technology will be key factors as Singapore doles out new farmland

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The government has adjusted its leasing structure to encourage farmers to invest in high-tech farmland

The Singapore Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) announced today it plans to allocate 60 hectares (or about 600,000 square metres) of agricultural land for the local farming community.

What is interesting about the deal is that the government adjusted the leasing terms in order to foster innovation and encourage farmers to invest in technology.

The AVA has doubled the length of the agreements from 10-years to 20. This, the AVA hopes, will create stability and encourage farmers to invest in long-term technology and innovation.

“These plots will be tendered out with longer 20 year leases, compared to the earlier blocks of 10 years announced previously. This follows from feedback we’ve received from farmers that they needed a longer period to recover the investments for new technologies,” said Singapore’s Minister for National Development, Lawrence Wong, in a blog post.

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Part of this shift towards technology will be facilitated by the Agriculture Productivity Fund  (APF), a S$63million (US$44.8 million) fund with three schemes to help farmers keep up to pace with technology. The schemes are called the Basic Capability Upgrading scheme, the Productivity Enhancement scheme, and the Research & Development scheme.

Starting in April 2017, AVA will disburse 30 per cent of the money up-front rather than through a reimbursement plan, as was the previous method.

Innovation as a metric to receive land

Rather than simply giving land to the highest bidder, the AVA will take into consideration the following four factors when allocation space:

  • Production capabilities.
  • Past performance and production track record
  • Relevant experience and qualifications
  • Innovation and sustainability

According to the AVA, this means,

“Farmers with good production records and good concepts that optimise production and manpower will stand a good chance of winning new plots”.

AVA CEO Tan Poh Hong said farmers have been visiting high-tech farms abroad and she expressed optimism about the community’s willingness to embrace technology.

“We strongly encourage our farmers to work with AVA, to embrace technology to boost Singapore’s food security. Those planning to participate in the upcoming tenders must seize the opportunity to adopt innovative agritechnologies to maximise land and labour productivity,” she said

Part of the motivation behind emphasising technology is the macroeconomic realities of Singapore’s food ecosystem. The small size of the city-state means it relies heavily on imports to feed its population, but the government would like to grow more food locally.

In his blog post, Wong mused about the importance of developing innovation within the agriculture industry.

“Given our limited space, we will not be able to produce all the food we need. However, new farming technologies allow us to significantly boost our production levels. Not only will this provide us with more locally grown food, it will also help our farmers scale up their businesses,” he wrote.

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The key food items sought by the government are fish and vegetables. The plots of land will be in the Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah areas of Singapore.

Copyright: jieophoto / 123RF Stock Photo

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