Urban Farming In Singapore, How To Start

Introduction to urban farming in Singapore: Urban agriculture includes the production, distribution, and marketing of food and other types of products in and around urban areas. Examples include community, school, backyard, and rooftop gardens that aim beyond home consumption and education, urban market gardens, modern food production methods that maximize production in a small area, community-supported agriculture-based in urban areas.

Singapore is a tropical city-state located in Southeast Asia and has one of the most developed economies and living standards in the world. Due to the competitive demands of land use, agriculture was limited to about one percent of the land. Singapore’s food supply increasingly became dependent on imports.

Information about urban farming in Singapore: Singapore’s agriculture sector needs to adopt technologies or innovations that can help achieve a quantum leap in productivity. In recent years, Singapore has become a global leader in applying the vertical model to urban agriculture – experimenting with rooftop gardens and vertical fields to feed many of its inhabitants and to some extent food security. There are many benefits to urban agriculture. Urban gardens are often built on previously unused lots, adding to the beauty and value of the neighborhood. They provide recreational opportunities and a social network for gardeners.

Singapore citizenship has led to significant changes in food and lifestyle and environmental impacts such as housing and biodiversity. The rapid rate and breadth of Singapore’s environment and population changes make it an ideal case study for the time-consuming process of urbanization in ecosystem services. Urban farming is beginning on a large scale in Singapore – and over time. After all, urban farming brings many benefits, such as increased green space, community bonding, and the availability of nutritious food. It also teaches people to value their food sources. It encourages the community to know where the food comes from, how it is grown, and connects with the people who grow it.

A guide to starting urban farming in Singapore, types of urban farms in Singapore, tips and techniques of urban farming in Singapore

Urban Farming In Singapore
Urban Tomato Farming (pic credit: pixabay)

Singapore will always have to maximize the productivity of its land and labor for self-production, and that means technology. Food production in Singapore does not make economic sense when there is no comparative advantage, such as with rice and other large-scale crops. Singapore imports more than 90 percent of its food, and the global food supply chain has been disrupted. It has strengthened interest in urban farming, as demand for local produce, horticultural products, and workshops has increased. Growing your diet is beyond meeting food security. It helps you save money and reduce the environmental impact. The carbon and watermark in the imported food supply chain are significant. Local production can significantly reduce environmental impact. It also helps reduce the demand for large-scale, industrial agricultural products, many of which are linked to problems ranging from deforestation to heavy use of pesticides. Growing food in the city is difficult but possible all over the world.

The main focus of urban farming in Singapore

Urban farming methods require specific knowledge depending on the location in a city and the extent of land or space availability. In tropical climates, although the growing season is extensive, there are investments and business models on greenhouse urban farming within city limits. Urban agriculture has become a common topic of food production and production in large cities. Due to the limitations of the techniques of growing plants or raising animals in the city, this may not be the same method as the traditional methods of agricultural practice.

Urban planning in Singapore aims to harness the country’s scarce land resources for the diverse needs of current and future generations of residents. This includes allocating land for competitive uses such as housing, trade, industry, parks, transport, recreation, and defense, as well as determining development densities for different locations. Urban agriculture can partly replace the demand for imports from rural agriculture and the supply of food to cities abroad. City farmers create an environment that can meet their specific needs for urban agricultural activities. Specific types of urban farming techniques range from growing plants in the soil to greenhouse or plant factories to soil-less systems to outdoor bed farming. To create a growing environment in a city where the air is polluted, land can be contaminated with heavy metals, and water cannot be used for agricultural practice, greenhouses provide opportunities to grow plants under separated growing conditions. Greenhouses can be used not only to enhance the growing season but also to protect plants from diseases and pests. These plastic-covered and mesh structures can also control the temperature and allow farmers to design separate irrigation systems for selected plants. However, growing plants in this controlled condition require both investment and specialized knowledge.

Greenhouse urban farms can be interpreted as ground-based conditioning, and a traditional greenhouse attached to the roof can be thought of as an integrated building. The net water consumption of greenhouse plants is very low but the yield per kg of the crop is very high.

There are six main focuses, namely;

Housing – Continue to enhance Singapore’s living capacity in all areas and provide a wide variety of housing options with support services to serve people of all ages;

Economy – Strengthening urban areas and other employment centers, as well as decentralizing jobs and creating new business centers;

Recreation – Natural Reserves, Land Conservation for Natural Areas and Parks. Increase existing spaces to meet;

Identity – Singapore’s built heritage and social memory by enhancing existing areas with specific identities and fostering new people in community-focused ways;

Transportation – Expand the transport network by emphasizing green and sustainable transportation methods.

Public places – Create well-designed communal community spaces.

Policy and urban agriculture management in Singapore

The key policy at the same time focuses on gaining control over land use, allowing economic activities including agricultural activities to run very efficiently within Singapore’s borders. Currently, all transactions, including land-related matters for farming, are managed by state agencies, such as the Singapore Land Authority and the Urban Redevelopment Authority. Such extensive remittances in the hands of the authorities not only ensure revenue for the treasury, but also allow for a highly centralized system of local planning that is now proving to be a model, and therefore Is gaining ground in the Global South, where it faces serious development challenges.

In addition, the land tenure system is important for the decision-making process regarding the local distribution of agricultural activities within the city limits. In Singapore, the central body controlling urban agriculture was, most recently, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA). The organization is divided into the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), which provides ‘food-related services’, and the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS), which provides ‘non-food animal, plant and wildlife management services. These institutions provide technical and technical support, as well as strategic support for research and development. Local farmers can hire a dedicated consultant for the introduction and testing of modern technology as well as for business development and receipt of funding under the Agriculture Productivity Fund (APF).

The main reason for regular review of municipal land ownership is the scarcity of land resources and the way it is used to adapt to the changing needs of Singapore’s economy. In the case of agriculture, leases can only be extended if the tenants have made significant investments in land or real estate and their activities are necessary for ‘strategic national needs’. This means that farms that are not profitable enough or do not conform to the development guidelines developed by the authorities can be transferred, or, if they fail to obtain land use rights elsewhere, closed. The Singapore Food Agency also offers another form of lease – a short-term land lease for agriculture – lasting 1 to 3 years. In this case, urban agriculture is considered a temporary activity that can hardly be considered as a strategy for urban development.

As such, Singaporean authorities have many tools to control and drive the direction of urban agricultural development. Field research confirms that institutional and legal structures play a key role in the distribution and hereditary characteristics of urban farms in the city-state. However, strong centralization prevents grassroots action and agency of residents, whose individual needs are not generally taken into account in strategies implemented by state agencies. Given the fact that Smart City concepts currently focus on community building as well as investment in human and social capital among urban dwellers, Singapore should not be an example to follow in this area.

Urban farms in Singapore

The 36 urban farms in Singapore (total area 188.8 hectares and average area 5.24 hectares) analyzed that can be divided into two main groups. Firstly, the total area of ​​28 farms is 178.76 hectares and the average area is 6.39 hectares, which includes the cultivation of plants and the ongoing rearing of animals in the northwestern part of the island, which has been named the Kranji countryside. The area, which also houses two natural reservoirs (the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and the Kranji Marshes), is characterized by a limited portion of the residential area and serves as a place of recreation in the bosom of nature for the people of Singapore. The city, however, despite its name, is a particularly rural area, a moment to think about. Although this includes a large number of urban farms, most of them cite the example of ‘industrial’ farming, in which farming and animal husbandry often takes place behind walls or in greenhouses. In essence, Kranji is a fruitful area for rural Singapore, far from the city center.

Urban farms produce food for both plants and animals, but their neighbors include defense establishments and ornamental plants, and pond fish production. The limited space and current land use policy affect the use of modern solutions in the field of urban agriculture in Singapore. The ability to adapt to changing economic conditions is in line with the concept of smart, flexible, and soft cities. Nevertheless, the need to relocate has emerged as one of the key challenges facing many individual farms, and therefore, urban agriculture in general in Singapore. During interviews with farm employees and employers, seven respondents indicated that the next term of their lease is an issue they are facing, as well as the possibility of relocating or closing.

Types of Urban farms in Singapore;

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Hydroponic Coriander
Hydroponic Coriander (pic credit: pixabay)

Urban farms using hydroponics on the roofs of parking structures – Citiponics is one of the first rooftop farms in Singapore. The farm is a structure that serves almost every neighborhood in Singapore.

Installing Urban Farms in Existing Buildings – Sustenir Agriculture has developed an indoor vertical farm that can be retrofit in existing buildings (including office buildings). The company grows food that cannot be produced locally displaces imports, and reduces carbon emissions.

Creating a better greenhouse for urban farms in a tropical climate – Natsuki Garden is a greenhouse in the center of the city, occupying a reused space in a former schoolyard. The greenhouse is custom designed for the tropical climate to allow better air circulation. Growing 60-80 kg of food per square meter, the greenhouse caters to a small local market.

What can you grow under urban farming in Singapore?

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Greenhouse Strawberries
Greenhouse Strawberries (Pic credit: pixabay)

Make sure you can start with plants that grow easily and survive with minimal care. There are many plants that you can grow, here is our selection of a few simple plants;

1) Herbs – Basil, Mint, Dill, Chives, Coriander, Thyme, Curry Leaves, Indian Borage, and Chilies

2) Aloe Vera

3) Fruits – Chikoo (Sapodilla), Guava, Bell Fruit, Strawberries, Custard Apple, Banana, and Watermelon

4) Vegetables – Long beans, Spinach, Tomatoes, Lettuce, Kai-Lan, Bok Choy, Ladies finger

5) Moringa

6) Microgreens

7) Ginger, etc.

Tips and tricks for urban farming

Do some R&R (reading and research) – Do some research about urban farming and it is good for a successful business.

Starting with easily growing plants – Gardening is not as easy, but many plants grow well in Singapore’s tropical climate. All you need to do is check that your home garden meets the right light and shade requirements for everyone. There are varieties of vegetables, flowers, and herbs that are easy to grow in urban areas. When planning your garden, think about what to plant – shallow-rooted vegetables, such as herbs, Lettuce, and Radishes, usually work best in confined spaces.

Get the right equipment – If you are just starting, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on modern planting equipment. Look around your home for materials that you can recycle for gardening use. Egg cartons make the best planting trays for planting, while plastic containers can be made for planting by trimming or modifying. For hassle-free options, there are urban farms and nurseries in Singapore that sell growing kits for babies and beginners. Those looking to spruce up can opt for low-maintenance hydroponic systems that allow you to grow up to 27 different plants in just 1 square meter of space.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor – Seeing Mother Nature in action at home can be an eye-opening experience for everyone in the family when you eat your food.

Different ways to start urban farming in Singapore

1. Join a Community Garden – As the name suggests, community gardens are a government-supported initiative called green-fingered HDB (Housing Development Board) residents the opportunity to get together and garden. As you would expect, these gardens are located within the neighborhood property and are maintained by volunteer gardeners. Because of their popularity and usefulness in creating social cohesiveness, community gardens are one of the easiest ways for eco-conscious Singaporeans to start urban farming. You will also have the opportunity to make some like-minded new friends with whom you can share your hobbies. You also have to do something good. Some of the harvests from the community garden can be sold to raise funds for those in need during grassroots programs.

2. Plant in your corridor – Another popular option involves planting an urban garden on your doorstep. There are many examples of talented HDB dwellers who are successfully growing and harvesting their fruits and vegetables in their corridors.

3. Set up an indoor planting system – If transit planting is not a viable option (especially with some potentially new, more claustrophobic HDB estates), you can try to keep your urban garden indoors. All you need is a balcony or plenty of open space with good sunlight – and a vertical garden system that allows you to plant rows of vegetables and herbs.

Features of urban farming in Singapore

The new policy of the authorities in Singapore takes a definite direction to invest in modern, intensive, income-generating agriculture with efficient use of limited space at the same time. Food production should be based on high technology, which will take the city to a new level of ‘smartness. Thus, in the future, the document will have a significant impact on changes in the inherited characteristics of urban farms in Singapore. In addition, the Singapore Food Authority and the Singapore Land Authority have a wide range of control over farming practices within the city. Acquisition of land use rights for agricultural production depends on the decision of these institutions. In an interview, an executive director of the Food Supply Resilience Group, an organizational unit of the AVA (former SFA), emphasized that the Singaporean government is committed to promoting high-yielding and modern commercial agriculture. A controlled environment enables us to generate maximum profit. As such approaches are adopted by the government, it can be assumed that the farms will be willing to implement them to gain state support. Technologically advanced practices, therefore, are likely to be more popular in Singapore. Changes are already being made, which have been proven during fieldwork.

Of the 36 farms studied, the clear majority (28 farms – 77.8%) are based exclusively on plant production. These are mainly grown vegetables, with so-called Asian leafy vegetables (e.g., Bok Choy, Chinese Lettuce, Butterhead Lettuce, Korean Lettuce) grown on 21 farms (58.3% of all farms analyzed) and 70% of farms specialize in plant production). The other 6 farms (16.7%) specialize in animal husbandry, while 2 (5.5%) combine crops and livestock. In the fields where crops are grown, the current methods are not modern hydroponics that the authorities promote (although it is present in 7 farms, 19.4), but more traditional soil-based farming that characterizes 14 locations. Studied (38.9%). Regarding the two cases in which the methods coexist, respondents noted that hydroponics was only an additional method, which is not currently proving to be sufficiently efficient, thus increasing the income of both based on soil-based output is the primary source. However, owners of both farms are willing to invest more in hydroponics as well as aquaponics.

Urban farms to get fresh greens from in Singapore

Sustenir – Sustenir prides itself on producing tasty, healthy produce that is 100% clean, free of pesticides and environmental pollution. In addition to reducing carbon emissions by increasing locally, they also work sustainably from start to finish. They use 95% less water than traditional farming methods and use technology to keep their energy consumption below industry standards.

Comcrop – Comcrop, like other urban farms in Singapore, grows its crops using modern hydroponic technology, but what makes them stand out is that they live in the middle of Singapore’s concrete jungle where we live. Literally how they work. Recognizing the potential of unused roof spaces, Comcrop farms are located on the roofs of buildings to make full use of abundant natural light. Currently our first and only commercial rooftop farming company, Comcrop has revitalized the backward areas and embraced the backward workforce to grow and cultivate the highest pesticide-free production in Singapore.

Artisan Green – indoor farm using hydroponics. Artisan Green is housed inside the laboratory, where the temperature is carefully monitored and the LED light ensures that its vegetables grow as healthy as possible. Using hydroponics, vegetables are grown in mineral water instead of soil – the farm uses 90% less water than other soil-based farms.

Pacific Agro Farm – You will be amazed at the sheer size of Pacific Agro Farm, which grows anything from Cherry Tomatoes to Eggplant to Basil. Fall at any moment to see the vegetable crops – you can fully explore the place and find out what’s going on behind the scenes.

Hydro-Urban – Pest-free farming – It’s always good to know what is in the food you’re eating, and we appreciate that Hydro-Urban is very transparent about their farming process. Only light energy, water, and natural nutrient compounds are used which do not contain any pesticides.

Citizen Farm by Edible Garden City – From building edible gardens for restaurants to starting their farm, Edible Garden City has been sticking to its goals like “local, fresh, and safe produce that meets the highest quality standards.”

Bollywood Veggies – Bollywood Vegetables leave the city behind as soon as you step foot in Bollywood Vegetables located in the northwestern Kranji countryside. Their countryside offers a new view of the island, allowing visitors to rejuvenate, reconnect and enjoy some good food. Bollywood Veggies is a planet-friendly operation that runs as smoothly as possible without the use of pesticides or fertilizers for its crops. In addition to caring for the environment, the company also helps disadvantaged groups in the community by providing employment opportunities for challenged and less fortunate Singaporeans.

VertiVegies – VertiVegies has become Singapore’s largest indoor farm since its inception in 2015. An urban farm that specializes in vertical farming to get fresh and healthy produce, VertiVegies is committed to caring for the environment. Use solar energy for planting and closed water systems, to power fields, and to avoid pesticides. Also runs a social organization, trying to guide Singapore to self-sufficiency in food security.

Quan Fa Organic Farm – With 20 years of agricultural experience, Quan Fa has prided itself on its unique Japanese farming technique that reduces insect infections from organic and nutrient-rich debris. That means no pesticides, no fertilizers, and no chemicals – just natural goodness that is fresh and healthy. Famous for its wide range of native Asian vegetables, the farm offers about 40 different types of leafy vegetables, hard vegetables, herbs, and fruits. Freshness is guaranteed, as harvesting, packaging, and delivery are all done in one day.

Kin Yan Agrotech – While we usually think of leafy vegetables and fruits when it comes to the fields, Kin Yan Agrotech is an urban farm that has been growing delicious mushrooms for the past two decades. It is currently the largest commercial Wheat and Mushroom farm in Singapore and has expanded its roster to include leafy vegetables, black fungus, edible cactus, and pea sprouts.

Artisan Green – The city’s latest, cleanest spinach from Artisan Green is in your alley. Careful monitored and temperature monitoring in a controlled indoor environment with LED lights, healthy and organic crops are all you can get here. Mineral water and state-of-the-art hydroponic technology ensure significantly less water loss than soil-based farms.

Challenges of urban farming in Singapore

Urban farming presents a unique challenge that provides the basic context for this work. These challenges are common everywhere in every city, and they inform us of the work we do as farmers. Here is the be the most common challenges in urban farming;

  • Limited lateral space
  • High land values ​​
  • Contaminated soil
  • Theft and vandalism
  • Crops loss and damage from floor birds and rodents
  • High costs (water, infrastructure, permits, and housing, etc.)
  • Lack of experienced skilled labor and management

What are the challenges of farming in Singapore?

Local Growing Challenges – The biggest challenge facing farmers is the lack of safe space to care for their animals or crops. Under the current land lease system, farms are allowed to lease at intervals of about 10 years, as long as they meet production targets.

Problems of urban farming are due to limited resources and pollution in cities, urban farming faces challenges related to lack of resources, including water, land, labor, access, and environmental pollution.

Singapore’s retailers are buying more agricultural products outside the region to meet the 5.5% annual growth demand of local markets. The products range from ordinary to high-quality organic foods.

Other interesting details are;

  • Singapore’s retail food sector is the most developed in the world.
  • The strong nature of its large grocery retail sector means that retailers must be highly innovative to be competitive.
  • Singapore has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, with a high level of consumer purchasing power.

The future of urban farming in Singapore

Reflecting Singapore’s substantial achievements in food security, some experts caution that “the next 50 years are likely to be more complicated because alternative prospects depend on external forces and are subject to global change on which the city-state there will be no control.

Other speculative areas of progress include the dramatic reduction in local food waste, the focus of recent government and civil society public education campaigns; the location of high-tech greenhouses on bespoke ships moored in Singapore’s waters; or the start of international contract farming in large, stable countries.

Achieving any of these possibilities will require further clarification and integration of the scope of the relevant government agency, and harmonization (or production competition) between the diverse ecosystem of public, private, and nonprofit actors, not forgetting the role of Singaporean citizens as the end recipients of such efforts whether they are city farmers or enthusiastic eaters.


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