Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, at the Opening Ceremony of the Urban Aquaponics Garden, Fairmont Singapore and Swissôtel The Stamford, on 27 November 2019
Mr Marcus Hanna, General Manager of Fairmont Singapore and Swissôtel The Stamford
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good afternoon. It is my pleasure to be here at the official opening of the aquaponics garden at the Fairmont Singapore and Swissôtel the Stamford. This is the first time an aquaponics installation of this scale has been set up by a hotel in Singapore. I congratulate Mr Hanna and his team for bringing this farm to fruition.
2 As a small island city-state, Singapore faces many developmental challenges. We have little land to cultivate food, no natural resources, and remain one of the most water-stressed countries in the world. And climate change will increasingly put pressure on our essential resources such as water and food. We have been emphasising the need to overcome resource constraints and move Singapore towards zero waste. Going forward, we will also need to look at how we can enhance Singapore’s food security. As with fighting climate change and building climate resilience as well as working towards a zero waste nation, everyone can play a part to strengthen our food security.
Enhancing our Food Security
3 Singaporeans are fortunate to be able to enjoy a wide variety and steady supply of food. Take one of our beloved national dishes for example — chicken rice. Our rice is imported from several countries, such as Thailand, Vietnam, India, Myanmar and Cambodia. And chicken is sourced from countries such as Malaysia and Brazil.
4 The variety and number of countries we import from may surprise you. In fact, Singapore imports more than 90 per cent of our food supply. This makes us very vulnerable to the volatilities of the global food market and external conditions. To better secure our food supply, we have embarked on extensive efforts to source food from different geographical areas. Today, we import food from over 180 countries and are still seeking new sources to import from.
5 Diversifying import sources is one of our three main strategies – or what we call our “Three Food Baskets” – to strengthen our food security. Our second strategy is to ‘Grow Local’. This is where we look at self-production to reduce our reliance on imports.
6 As I had mentioned earlier, we do not have large tracts of land for agriculture, but this constraint does not stop us from growing our own food.
Today, farms grow upwards by utilising vertical as well as rooftop farming systems, like this aquaponics installation that you have here. We are increasingly seeing such facilities sprout up island-wide on the rooftops of shopping malls, in schools, in hospitals, and even in carparks. One example is Citiponics, the first commercial urban rooftop farm located at a HDB multi-storey car park in Ang Mo Kio. Edible Garden City is another urban farm that makes good use of unconventional spaces such as containers and vacant State buildings and technology like LED lights for indoor farming. Such innovative farming approaches are encouraged because they maximise land use, and can introduce greenery into the built environment at the same time. They also contribute towards our strategy to “Grow local” and increase self-production to strengthen our food security.
7 We are nurturing talent, working with partners to build up a vibrant agri-food ecosystem, and encouraging the public to support home-grown produce. We are also supporting the local farming industry in harnessing agri-tech to improve productivity and yield.
8 One of the ways that we are doing this, is through the $63 million Agriculture Productivity Fund (APF) that was set up to co-fund systems to better control environmental variables and boost production capabilities. Farmers can also tap on the APF to co-fund R&D and test-bedding of technologies. As of 30 September 2019, a total of 107 farms have benefited from the APF. These farms include vegetable, fish, hen egg, shrimp and beansprout farms. They also include commercial rooftop farm ComCrop.
9 The third strategy to strengthen our food security is to grow overseas. By supporting our local companies to expand and grow overseas, whatever they produce can then be exported back home.
10 Our eventual target is to achieve a 30-by-30 vision – to locally produce 30 per cent of Singapore’s needs by 2030. This is an ambitious target considering that we currently produce less than 10 per cent locally. Achieving this vision would require our agri-food industry to transform and adopt new solutions to raise productivity, apply R&D, strengthen climate resilience, and overcome our resource constraints.
11 The launch of the urban aquaponics garden at Fairmont Singapore and Swissôtel the Stamford directly supports our effort to grow local and aligns closely with our 30-by-30 vision. It is also an excellent platform to engage your hotel guests on sustainable food production.
12 Instead of importing produce from overseas, the hotel chefs can simply pick from the ones grown on your very own rooftop. This helps to cut down carbon emissions and fight climate change because the produce does not need to travel vast distances to get here. Best of all, the produce is much fresher too as you can literally harvest your crops and eat it on the same day.
13 This aquaponics installation is also a good example of circular economy in action. Fish waste provides organic nutrients for plants. So, in short, one fish’s trash is another plant’s treasure! Furthermore, the plant roots help keep the water clean by acting as a natural filter.
14 Let me conclude. Fairmont Singapore and Swissôtel the Stamford was presented with the National Environment Agency’s 3R Award for Hotels in 2018 for its commitment to sustainable development. I am glad to see that your eco journey continues with the launch of this aquaponics farm. I hope your efforts will inspire other industry players to join us on this journey towards sustainable development. I encourage other industry players and the community to bring food production closer to the community, and raise awareness and interest to grow locally and support the farming industry.
15 Thank you, and I wish all of you a great day ahead.