Best of our wild blogs: 15 Feb 14

Save MacRitchie Forest: 21. Music Video “Love MacRitchie Forest” from Bird Ecology Study Group

Visiting Mount Faber Park Again - After A Long Time
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Trilling song of the Yellow-bellied Prinia
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterflies Galore! : Common Birdwing
from Butterflies of Singapore

What killed the fish? WildShores Singapore investigates and the scientific farmer explains from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

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Rooftop farm produces up to 10 times more than traditional farms

Eileen Poh Channel NewsAsia 14 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE: Tucked away in the heart of Orchard Road is a uncommon sight for Singapore's main shopping belt.

A vegetable and fish farm called Comcrop is located on the rooftop of *SCAPE.

With 6,000 square feet of space, it can produce eight to 10 times more than traditional farms over the same area by using vertical farming techniques.

The farm also uses aquaponics, a self-sustaining system that breaks down by-products from tilapia, a type of fish, which are utilised by plants as nutrients. The clean water is then fed back to the plants.

Its founders said being a local food producer means delivering crops fresh, right after they are harvested.

They have reached out to more than 20 prospective customers, and received positive feedback from some who do not mind paying a bit more for quality.

Bjorn Shen, head chef and owner at Artichoke Cafe & Bar, said: "For us... we believe in quality first. So as long as we are willing to absorb the costs, as long as customers are willing to pay a bit more for something that is of great quality, it is something we want to carry on doing."

And it is more than just business at Comcrop. Every week, students from Victoria Junior College and Singapore Polytechnic, as well as the elderly from Tampines-Changkat Constituency, come together to tend to the vegetable and fish at the rooftop farm.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who was at the farm earlier on Friday, said he is impressed by how it fosters social cohesion and collaboration, and hopes for more of such initiatives.

And that may be sooner than expected.

The farm said it already is in talks with several parties to expand to other rooftops of commercial buildings in Singapore.

- CNA/gn

S’pore’s 1st rooftop farm aims to supply produce to F&B outlets
Today Online 15 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE — From next month, vegetables and herbs will be harvested from a farm on the roof of *SCAPE building in Orchard, and as much as one tonne of produce could be harvested each month by June, filling the plates of local restaurants.

Vegetables, heirloom tomatoes, Italian basil, spearmint and peppermint are among the crops that will be harvested from Singapore’s first commercial rooftop farm run by social enterprise Comcrop, and the aim is to supply them to hotels and food and beverage outlets. Already, the company has sent product samples to 20 F&B establishments to drum up interest.

Speaking during a visit to the farm by Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan yesterday, Comcrop Chief Executive Allan Lim, who is also co-founder of biodiesel company Alpha Biofuels, said the company is attempting to tap the potential of “marginal land”, which is land traditionally not used for farming, for commercial farming.

Mr Keith Loh, who develops sales and marketing strategies for Comcrop, said the system adds value to land already being used. “This vertical system allows us to grow eight to 10 times the amount of conventional flat land, soil-based farming,” he said. “Because we are using aquaponics, the plants have access to an abundance of nutrients.”

The 6,000 sq ft farm began as a test-bed outside the National Youth Council Academy, before Comcrop struck a partnership with *SCAPE to move the test-bed to the building’s roof last June.

The crops are planted in rows on pipes stacked on top of one another. The pipes draw water from tanks filled with living tilapia fishes, mimicking a freshwater lake ecosystem where by-products from fishes are broken down and absorbed as nutrients by the plants.

Commenting on his blog after his visit, Mr Khaw said Comcrop’s farm was unusual in two aspects. “First, it is right smack in our city centre, in the heart of Orchard Road. Second, it is largely run by the young,” he said.

He also commended Comcrop’s contributions to society. For example, it has invited students from Victoria Junior College and Singapore Polytechnic, as well as elderly from Tampines-Changkat Constituency, to volunteer at the rooftop farm. By passing on farming skills, more such urban farms can be built across Singapore, said Mr Khaw.

Despite high land prices in the country and the presence of lower-priced imported produce, Comcrop’s management believes its produce — which are fresher than imports — can be sold at competitive prices. “We also provide cost-effectiveness because we eliminate the whole cost of transporting (farm products) from another country to us,” he said. The company declined to reveal its prices.

Artichoke restaurant’s head chef Bjorn Shen, who has prepared food with produce from Comcrop’s farm, said local produce is fresher but also pricier and less consistent in supply.

“What is stopping a lot of restaurants from getting (local produce), is that a lot of restaurants need a certain level of stability, in terms of consistency of supply,” he said.

His restaurant is committed to using local produce, but this is possible only because it can adapt its menu to supply changes, he added.

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Malaysia: 'Winds not blowing in volcanic ash' from Indonesia

Hemananthani Sivanandam The Star 15 Feb 14;

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia need not worry about any plume of ash blanketing its skies from the eruption of Mount Kelud in Indonesia.

“Since the winds are blowing from the north-easterly direction, it is not possible for the ash to head our way,” National Weather Centre Director Muhammad Helmi Abdullah said yesterday.

The volcano, which erupted late Thursday night, forced the closure of three airports in Surabaya, Yogya­karta and Solo due to poor visibility and the dangers posed by ash from the eruption on aircraft engines.

It was reported that the cloud from the eruption could be seen as far as 9km to the west.

Mount Kelud is situated 140km south of Surabaya. An estimated 200,000 people live within a 10km radius of the mountain, one of nearly 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia.

In a related development, AirAsia announced the cancellation of all flights to and from Surabaya, Semarang and Yogyakarta due to the airport closures.

The airline said the volcanic ash emitted from the volcano had affecte­d the air quality in the surrounding areas, resulting in poor visibility and posed a potential threat to passengers’ safety.

“The ash could also compromise the safety and performance of the aircraft, such as causing permanent damage to the engine,” said the low-budget carrier in a statement yesterday.

AirAsia said passengers affected by the flight cancellations could change their flights within five days of the original schedule without additional charge

Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines said its flights to and from Indonesia had not been affected and all operations were as scheduled.

“We are monitoring the situation closely and will notify our customers of any changes,” it said in a statement.

46 flights out of Singapore cancelled after volcano erupted
Chitra Kumar Channel News Asia 14 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE: A volcanic eruption in Java, Indonesia has caused 46 flights out of Singapore to five Indonesian cities to be cancelled, as of 7.40pm Friday.

The cities are Semarang, Solo, Surabaya, Yogyakarta and Bandung.

The eruption has killed at least two people and forced mass evacuations, disrupting long-haul flights and closing international airports.

In a Facebook post, Singapore's Changi Airport advised passengers travelling to these cities to check with their respective airlines on their flight's status before going to the airport.

About 215 Singapore Airlines passengers were affected.

Responding to a media query, a SIA spokesperson said that two of its flights have been cancelled -- SQ930 from Singapore to Surabaya and SQ931 from Surabaya to Singapore.

SIA said customers have been rebooked on flights for Saturday and hotel accommodation has been extended to those affected.

The airline will waive administrative fees and penalties for refunds, re-booking, re-routing for customers holding confirmed tickets issued before 14 February 2014 for travel to and from Surabaya, Solo, Yogyakarta and Semarang from now to 18 February 2014.

Passengers are to note that flights to Solo, Yogyakarta and Semarang are operated by SilkAir. They are advised to speak to SilkAir for updates.

Separately an update on SilkAir's website said four flights have been cancelled - SilkAir flights MI 226/225 to Surabaya, MI 102/101 to Semarang, MI 152/151 to Yogyakarta and MI 196/195 to Bandung.

Affected passengers requiring assistance are advised to call SilkAir at +65 62238888.

Meanwhile AirAsia Indonesia has cancelled 16 flights and TigerAir 24.

- CNA/ir

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