‘Strategic’ food farms to get more funding help from AVA

LOUISA TANG Today Online 6 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE — Farmers who want to make the leap to more productive farming systems will receive co-funding of up to S$2 million from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), nearly triple the current cap of S$700,000.

The increased co-funding, under the AVA’s Agriculture Productivity Fund’s productivity enhancement component, will be given to “strategic food farms” producing commonly consumed items – hen eggs, leafy vegetables, food fish, quail eggs and bean sprouts.

“Many farmers have told us that they are happy to adopt more productive technology. Advanced greenhouse systems with environmental controls and automation, which can double production, can cost around S$4 million. We appreciate that this poses challenges,” said Senior Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon on Tuesday (March 6).

And because several rounds of trials may be needed before farmers commit to a particular technology or system, the Government will introduce a new test-bedding component to the Agriculture Productivity Fund, said Dr Koh at his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate in Parliament. It will provide 70 per cent co-funding for test-bedding projects, with a cap of S$500,000.

For farms growing ornamental fish, aquatic plants, birds, crocodiles, mushrooms, cattle, goats, and frogs, the AVA will continue to provide 30 per cent co-funding of up to S$300,000 for productivity enhancement and up to S$100,000 for test-bedding projects.

The S$63 million Agriculture Productivity Fund was launched in 2014. Of the 140 applications as of the end-February, the AVA has approved 105 projects from 68 farms and committed about S$12 million.

The authorities will also do more to ensure farms have skilled local manpower, said Dr Koh. Temasek Polytechnic will launch a new Earn and Learn work-study programme to attract graduates from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) to the aquaculture industry.

Under the programme, participating farms can receive incentives of up to S$15,000 for each graduate to defray training costs. Six food fish farms including Barramundi Asia, Apollo Aquaculture Group and Metropolitan Fishery Group have pledged their support.

The starting monthly salary of the ITE graduates under the programme is S$1,200 to S$1,600.

Of the eight who have applied, one has been recruited while the rest will know next week if they are successful. They will begin their 12-month stint next month.

And to help increase demand for local produce, Dr Koh announced that SG Farmers’ Markets will be brought to the heartlands by August. The first one was held at Serangoon Gardens’ myVillage mall last September.


More help for local farmers to improve productivity with technology: Koh Poh Koon
Channel NewsAsia 6 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE: To better support the agriculture industry in improving productivity, Senior Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon said that the Agriculture Productivity Fund (APF) will be enhanced.

"Many farmers have told us that they are happy to adopt more productive technology. However, new farming systems require heavy capital investments. Advanced greenhouse systems with environmental controls and automation, which can double their production can cause around S$4 million," he said.

The funding cap for projects under the Productivity Enhancement (PE) scheme will be increased from S$700,000 to S$2,000,000.

The PE will also include a new test-bedding fund which will allow farmers to test new technology and run trials before committing at a commercial scale, with a funding cap of S$500,000 for food farms that want to try new solutions.

Under the new APF scheme, the categories of farms have also been tweaked.

Farm categories have been streamlined from three to two. Farms under Category 1 will remain the same, which includes commonly consumed items like hen and quail eggs, leafy vegetables, bean sprouts and food fish.

Farms under Category 2 will now include all other types of farms, such as ornamental fish farms to mushroom farms.

Dr Koh also gave an update on APF applicants since launch in 2014. As of end February, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority has received 140 applications for the APF. Of those, 105 projects from 68 farms have been approved with about S$12 million committed so far.

Applications for the enhanced APF will be accepted from May 1.

TRAINING A SINGAPOREAN WORKFORCE

Under a new "Earn and Learn" work-study programme, ITE graduates will join Temasek Polytechnic to undergo a one-year programme to train at aquaculture farms, Dr Koh announced.

"It will provide a talent pipeline to ensure our farms have skilled manpower to undertake transformation and innovation. ... I hope that our farmers will take this opportunity to create a positive learning experience for the graduates. This will encourage our young talent to enter and stay in the industry," said Dr Koh.

The students will undergo training in aquaculture skills with a focus on high density urban farming. It will include knowledge areas such as nutrition and feed, disease management, and husbandry and breeding.

Currently, eight ITE graduates have submitted their applications to the programme. The starting salary for ITE graduates undergoing this programme is between S$1,200 and S$1,600.

Source: CNA/fs


Farmers in Singapore to be given more help to raise productivity
Audrey Tan Straits Times 6 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE - More help will be given to farmers in the Republic to buffer against any global food supply shocks due to climate change.

This will be done on three fronts - making it easier for farmers to get financial help to adopt technology, growing a pipeline of talent through work-study programmes, as well as rolling out initiatives to boost demand for local produce such as organising more farmers' markets.

These were announced by Senior Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon on Tuesday (March 6) during the debate on his ministry's budget.

On the provision of more financial help, Dr Koh said that enhancements will be made to the existing Agriculture Productivity Fund to make it easier for farmers to employ technology. This will be done by raising the co-funding cap from $700,000 to $2 million for food farms that produce eggs, food fish, leafy vegetables and bean sprouts.

"Many farmers have told us that they are happy to adopt more productive technology. However, new farming systems require heavy capital investments. Advanced greenhouse systems with environmental controls and automation, which can double production, can cost around $4 million," Dr Koh said.

The increase in co-funding cap will help farmers take this leap, he added.

However, Dr Koh noted that not all available technologies in the market can be adopted wholesale in Singapore, due to varying local conditions.

To this end, farmers will be given assistance in testing these new systems prior to large-scale deployment, to ensure that the technology can be adapted to our local conditions and products.

"We will now introduce a new test-bedding component to the Agriculture Productivity Fund to co-fund up to $500,000 for food farms that want to test-bed new solutions," he said.

Dr Koh was responding to Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera and Mr Darryl David (Ang Mo Kio GRC), who had asked for updates on Singapore's agricultural sector.

Singapore imports more than 90 per cent of its food, but the 200 food farms here help to buffer the nation against global supply disruptions due to factors such as climate change.

Dr Koh said various government efforts will strengthen the ecosystem and operating environment for local farms.

He added: "But as the industry matures, we also need to start looking at the wider food value chain. We will continue to work towards creating an enabling environment to keep our local agricultural sector commercially viable and sustainable."

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