Thursday, 10 May 2018

Soil security is the necessary condition for food security, not high technology


I am very concerned about the future of agriculture in Singapore.

In order to achieve food security in our land-scarce nation, the mainstream and government thinking here is that the country needs to develop high-technology agriculture such as multi-tier hydroponic systems using LED lights and data analytics, multi-storey farms that use robotics and automated soil-less cultivation. According to Singapore's Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA), "the future in our food security lies in a modern and technologically-savvy farm sector that is fuelled by agricultural professionals, or ‘agri-technologists’ and ‘agri-specialists’."

Already, I can see heavy machinery and workmen clearing and flattening large parcels of agricultural land on the west of Singapore island to prepare the sites for future high-tech farms.

No, I do not think that high technology will ensure food security. If one understands the nature of food growing, he/she would see that soil security is the necessary condition for food security, not high technology.

Healthy soils are necessary to produce healthy food and achieve sustainable global food security.

Unhealthy soils do not have the diversity of soil life to provide the nutrients to support healthy crop growth, leading to systemic food and nutrient security problems.

I strongly believe that land scarcity in Singapore is an advantage in creating many small farms which are close to where people live (consumers). It is easy to see pockets of lawn area scattered throughout the island city. I hope the Singapore government will see the values of small farms and the potential of these lawn areas becoming productive small farms, growing food responsibly and regeneratively, providing safe and nutritious food for the people - small farms being part of food security in Singapore.

Like many other cities, there is increasing interest in urban farming in Singapore. People are concerned about food safety and nutrition and many are interested in growing their own food. Our government should consider creating conditions for people to establish community farms to feed themselves, not just community gardens for recreational purposes, but small farms that are seriously producing food in healthy soils. Perhaps, this can be the first steps towards Rubanization, architect Tay Kheng Soon's reconceptualization of rural and urban spaces as one same space, which brings greater balance to working, living, learning, playing, farming and health within walkable distances.

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