AVA awards 10 land parcels to vegetable farmers with innovative concepts

Derek Wong Straits Times 9 Feb 18;

SINGAPORE - Ten vegetable farming land parcels in Lim Chu Kang have been awarded to eight companies based on their concept proposals rather than the amount they bid.

This means that the farmers did not have to worry about engaging in a price war for the land, but focused more on refining their ideas, having in mind Singapore's push for greater productivity through technological innovation and efficient use of scarce resources.

It is the first time the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has awarded a tender on such grounds, the authority said in a press statement on Friday (Feb 9). It was launched in August 2017.

The size of the plots are about 2ha each and sold for $273,000 to $317,000 with a 20-year term. They are located in Neo Tiew Lane, Neo Tiew Link and Neo Tiew Place.

There were 12 land plots put up for tender, but two remain unsold as there were no suitable proposals for them, said AVA. This land will be re-tendered.

The winning proposals feature productive and innovative farming systems. These include green houses with automation and smart controls, multi-tier hydroponic systems using LED lights and data analytics to optimise growing conditions, and multi-storey farms that use automated soil-less cultivation system and robotics.

One of the winning submissions was a joint effort by Farm deLight and KG Farm. They will be paying $288,000 for their 20,167 sq m land plot.

Farm deLight's general manager Edmund Wong, 51, is looking forward to bringing his indoor-farming methods to a bigger space. Currently housed in a 600 sq m space in Boon Lay, it uses a soil-based growing method (geoponics) and organic fertilisers, with the plants stacked in tiers.

High-tech automation and artificial lighting allow Mr Wong to control the environment's humidity and carbon dioxide composition, among other things.

He now mostly provides herbs for a niche fine-dining market via business-to-business transactions.

But with the new space, Mr Wong intends to extend the operations to produce leafy vegetables like lettuce for the mass market.

"We intend to start making sales on the new land within nine months to a year," said Mr Wong.

Eden PurelyFresh Farm, another winning tenderer, is also at the cutting edge of farming technology.

Its chief executive officer Desmond Khoo, 30, will create a "hybrid" farm on the new space, with some sections using a multi-tier system and others using hydroponics in shipping containers. The farm will also harness solar energy and collaborate with Fresh Hub Vending to continually study technological improvements to the space.

Mr Khoo said even artificial intelligence or robotics are possible add-on options in future.

He hopes to kick off full-scale operations in less than a year.

"The work starts now," he said.

Mr Melvin Chow, AVA's group director for food supply resilience, said: "These proposals have the potential to optimise scarce land, reduce reliance on unskilled labour and bolster Singapore's food security."

Concept proposals were evaluated by a Tender Evaluation Committee (TEC) comprising external experts with deep knowledge in agriculture sciences and technology, as well as relevant government agencies.

It assessed the proposals using criteria such as production capability, production track record, relevant experience and qualification of the applicant, and innovation and sustainability.

Seven of the eight successful tenderers are local companies. AVA will be tendering more land for vegetable farming in the second quarter of 2018 and from 2019.


Eight companies clinch 10 plots of land for vegetable farming
Today Online 10 Feb 18;

Two awardees are not existing local farmers, tenderers competed solely on concept

SINGAPORE — Eight companies, including two new entrants to the farming scene here, have clinched the first batch of land parcels offered by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) through a fixed-price tender method.

The AVA announced on Friday (Feb 9) that it had awarded 10 of the 12 vegetable-farming parcels in Lim Chu Kang that were launched for tender last August.

The exercise was the first time the AVA tendered out land with a fixed price upfront for interested parties to compete solely on the concept of their proposals.

Two of the 12 parcels were not awarded because there were “no suitable proposals”, and would be re-tendered in future to “provide further opportunities for productive and progressive farms”, an AVA spokesperson said.

The sites offered were about two hectares each and have 20-year leases. Prices started from S$273,000 and the tender drew 28 parties by the time it closed on Oct 26 last year.

Meod, which describes itself as a provider of “plug and play gardening solutions” on its website, clinched the most number of plots — three. The company already operates a one-hectare plot of farm at the D'Kranji Farm Resort.

The other companies clinched one parcel each.

Sunpower Grand Holdings was the only foreign firm among the eight successful tenderers. It is part of the Singapore-headquartered Sun Power Grand Holdings Group, a Taiwanese entity which manufactures opto-electronics products and has developed technology for growing hydroponic fruits and vegetables.

The successful companies incorporated productive and innovative farming systems, the AVA said. They included greenhouses with automation and smart controls, multi-tier hydroponic systems using LED lights and data analytics to optimise growing conditions, and multi-storey farms that use robotics and automated soil-less cultivation systems.

The companies were assessed on their production capability, production track record, relevant experience, and innovation and sustainability.

VERTICAL FARMING

One of the awardees, Vertivegies, intends to build nine six-storey modular structures, each measuring about 30m by 30m and resembling apartment buildings. Its founder and managing director Veera Sekaran, 55, said that vegetables would be grown on the top five stories, with the lowest storey housing pumps and control systems.

Mr Veera, who also founded an urban and vertical-greenery firm called Greenology, added that the new project would be his first large-scale commercial farming venture. Last year, he farmed vegetables using containers and discovered that each 40-foot container was able to yield about 5,000 heads of lettuce every three to four weeks.

Mr Veera, a botanist, expects to get Vertivegies’ first structure up within a year, and hopes to break even in three to five years. He plans to grow local tropical vegetables as well as “value-added varieties” such as butterhead lettuce and kale.

Without the fixed-price tender method, he said that it would be difficult to take part in the tender.

“One of the challenges in urban farming has always been land cost, especially in Singapore… It’s very difficult to grow vegetables when land prices are that high,” he said. “Getting awarded is definitely a very exciting thing. We were not expecting it (as) there were 28 tenderers.”

Mr Melvin Chow, AVA’s group director of food supply resilience, said that the winning proposals have the potential to optimise scarce land, reduce reliance on unskilled labour and bolster Singapore’s food security.

The companies are required to meet the production levels declared in their tender proposals, the authority said.

Last October, it launched the tender for the second tranche of land parcels for farm use. The three plots for farming of food fish drew five tenderers.

There will be more land tenders for vegetable farming in the second quarter of this year and from 2019 onwards.

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