Singapore’s obsession with food goes far deeper than its world-famous chili crab and laksa. One of the most densely populated countries on the planet, its 5.7 million people rely on other nations for almost everything they eat. Just 0.9 percent of its land area of about 700 square kilometers was classified as agricultural in 2016, only marginally more than icebound Greenland.
Despite producing little of its own, Singaporeans arguably have better access than anyone else to affordable, abundant and high quality produce. The country has ranked first in an index of food security for two years running and is now deepening its focus as the COVID-19 crisis exposes the fragility of global food supply chains. To this end, the country is developing expertise in technologies such as vertical farming, nutrient recovery from food waste, and the use of insects, microalgae and cultivated meat as alternative protein sources, according to William Chen, the director of Food Science and Technology Programme at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.
Already, work is underway to free up more spaces for urban food production, for example on the rooftops of multistory car parks, according to the SFA. The government is financing research into sustainable urban farming as well as future foods such as alternative proteins, and seeking to expand fish farming off the south coast of the country. It’s also funding technology to help raise output from its existing farms, which totaled about 200 licensed operations as of 2018, producing mainly vegetables, fish and eggs.
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