Feeding S’pore, one rooftop at a time

Without acres of farmland, harvesting crops is not a typical thing to do in Singapore. And yet, that was what National Development Minister and West Coast GRC MP Desmond Lee did with his constituents. 

“We harvested vegetables and sugar cane yesterday morning from our allotment and community gardens,” shared Minister Lee in a Facebook post on Jan 30, 2023. 

Who would have thought that a nondescript-looking, multi-storey car park in Boon Lay lies an urban farm? 

But it is not just Boon Lay. Hidden in plain sight all over Singapore, unconventional and underutilised spaces are now being transformed into agricultural enclaves. 

Food and the City

Source: PSD

Singapore might only have one per cent of land available for food production, but that has not stopped us from experiencing an agricultural revolution. 

Through a combination of good planning, creative land use and high-tech farming systems, urban farms are flourishing. 

Indoors and on rooftops, racks upon racks of leafy vegetables using minimal water and space are now pushing the frontiers of innovation – all part of Singapore’s 30 by 30 plan, an ambitious goal to produce 30 per cent of our nutritional needs by 2030. 

It might seem odd for a land-scarce island state to be dabbling with agriculture, but the last few years have highlighted how vulnerable our food supply is to supply shocks. 

Remember last year’s chicken export ban and when S$72 organic chickens became the talk of the town? 

While the crisis has passed, there is no guarantee that the same issue will not happen again with other food products.

For a nation whose ethos is to be self-reliant, importing 90 per cent of its food is a statistic that screams dependency.

Therefore, one of the most pragmatic — and critical, if we may add — things the PAP Government can do to ensure food security in an increasingly disruptive world is to invest in home-grown food and diversify our food sources.

Make no mistake, this could easily turn into an existential crisis if there’s no forward planning.

Besides vegetables, Singapore is also home to an eight-storey high fish farm and a large plant-protein factory that will produce thousands of tonnes of alternative protein every year.

All of which are taking us one step closer to feeding ourselves. 

Source: Desmond Lee/Facebook

Of course, there are other benefits to our urban farms as well.

Besides allowing us to experience a farm-to-table experience right in our neighbourhood, allotments and community gardens cultivate something other than food.

As residents labour together to grow their crops, it brings back the elusive kampong spirit that has sadly disappeared under the concrete slabs of modern living.

As Minister Lee said after the harvest, “Thank you to our gardeners for their labour of love.”

Cover photo credit: Desmond Lee/Facebook