Ensuring Food Security and Sustainability in Singapore with a Vertical Farming System

Professor He Jie in front of her Vertical Aeroponic Farming (VAF) system/ Photo: Temasek Foundation Innovates

Keeping a resilient supply of safe and nutritional food at affordable prices is a global challenge. This is especially so in Singapore, where there is land and water scarcity. In order to ensure the nation’s food security, our local farming and production capabilities have to be optimised. There is a need to develop farming systems that can increase productivity significantly, and a need to increase the efficiency of our use of energy and water resources to minimise crop production costs.

With funding from Temasek Foundation Innovates through its Singapore Millennium Foundation Research Grant Programme, Associate Professor He Jie from the National Institute of Education (NIE) has developed an LED-integrated vertical aeroponic farming (VAF) system to address these challenges. This system is able to produce popular leafy vegetables such as Chinese broccoli and basil locally, thus reducing Singapore’s reliance on vegetable imports. Additionally, the vegetables grown are also healthy and sustainable, as the VAF system eliminates the threat of disease and contamination from animals, and eradicates invasive insects and the need for harmful pesticides.

The VAF system comprises three main components. Firstly, a vertical farming system is used, where growing units are stacked over one another. This system addresses land concerns as farming is done vertically. Secondly, an aeroponic system is used. This is a soil-less method where plant roots are suspended in the air while a nutrient solution is delivered to them. It addresses water resource issues, as aeroponic cultures require significantly less water. Thirdly, the combinations of different LED spectra are used to provide effective and uniform light to the growing units, which enhance photosynthesis and maximise crop density, productivity, and even the quality of specific crops.

Plant biologists are now performing experiments and collecting scientific data from the VAF system, so as to gain a better understanding of constraints to crop production, and to create new knowledge on vertical urban farming.

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Over 90 per cent of the food that we consume in Singapore is imported. This means that our food supply is particularly threatened by price fluctuations, geopolitical uncertainties and climate change. To ensure food security in Singapore, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has adopted three core strategies—firstly, they ensure the diversification of Singapore’s food imports through regular sourcing missions to different countries. Secondly, they optimize local food production through investments in productivity and agricultural R&D. Thirdly, they stockpile food such as rice, to stabilize prices in times of shortages.

About Temasek Foundation Innovates

Temasek Foundation Innovates is one of the six non-profit philanthropic organisations set up by Temasek and sponsored through Temasek Trust.

Temasek Foundation Innovates funds and supports programmes that focus on developing practical solutions for a better life through research and development. It aims to strengthen research capabilities by nurturing talents, as well as by encouraging cross collaborations.