Best of our wild blogs: 4 Aug 14

Who to call when you find bees in your home in Singapore
from The Tender Gardener

equatorial spitting cobra - hunting @ SBWR - August 2014
from sgbeachbum

Chestnut Nature Park
from Bugs & Insects of Singapore

Blue-throated Bee-eater caught a bee
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Wild Boar (Sus scrofa vittatus) @ Mandai
from Monday Morgue

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Electronics giant sets up farm in Singapore

Cheryl Faith Wee The Straits Times AsiaOne 3 Aug 14;

Electronics giant Panasonic has set up an indoor farm here to supply local restaurants and retailers with vegetables such as lettuce and radishes.

The farm occupies 248 sq m of its factory building in Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim in Jurong - equivalent to two five-room HDB flats.

Its crops are grown without pesticides and are not genetically modified. They are housed within an enclosed space where conditions such as light, temperature and humidity are created artificially and controlled. It was set up last September and began supplying Japanese restaurant chain Ootoya with lettuce, potherb mustard and radishes in April.

Today three Ootoya restaurants will add four items made mainly with these ingredients to the menu. Ootoya pays Panasonic up to 50 per cent less than it would to a Japanese supplier to get about 300kg of vegetables.

Its senior executive director Hiroaki Hamada said they are more "crunchy and fresh", adding: "The biggest benefits would be stability of supply and quality. Getting produce locally also helps reduce the impact of food scares abroad."

By the first quarter of 2016, Panasonic aims to supply supermarkets here with local produce. Certain vegetable varieties such as mizuna and mitsuba may also be available at up to half the price of Japanese imports.

At Japanese supermarket Medi-ya, a packet of mizuna weighing about 100g costs $7.90.

Mr Hideki Baba, managing director of Panasonic Factory Solutions Asia Pacific, said: "We want to contribute to Singapore's self- sufficiency in leafy vegetables and can utilise our automation systems to do so. We foresee potential growth in agribusiness for our portfolio here."

Mr Baba added that agribusiness is likely to make up a big part of company revenue here by 2017.

In Japan, the potential revenue has reportedly also drawn other electronics firms such as Fujitsu and Sharp into agribusiness.

According to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), 8 per cent of leafy vegetables eaten here are grown locally. Some 10,308 tonnes were produced by farms here last year.

Panasonic's farm - the only indoor soil-based vegetable farm licensed here - has a production capacity of 3.6 tonnes per year but this will rise to 1,000 per year by 2017 through methods such as vertical farming and reducing the cultivation time of crops. It will also expand its variety of vegetables from 10 to more than 30.

Another high-tech farm here, Sky Greens, also hopes to supply vegetables like spinach to supermarkets by the end of this year.

Local produce has got the thumbs up from consumers. Pastry sales executive Lee Si Han, 28, said: "It will help reduce carbon footprint... Imported vegetables suffer a lot on their way here - they get bruised. Local ones will be fresher."

Electronics giant Panasonic wants Singaporeans to eat its veg
Aradhana Aravindan Reuters 3 Aug 14;

(Reuters) - Japan's Panasonic Corp, best known for its television sets and home theater systems, wants to feed Singaporeans its radishes and lettuce.

A unit of the electronics conglomerate last week started selling to a chain of Japanese restaurants in Singapore fresh produce grown in what it says is the first licensed indoor vegetable farm in the island state.

The move ties Panasonic's deeper push into farming technology with land-scarce Singapore's ambition to reduce its near-total reliance on food imports.

"We foresee agriculture to be a potential growth portfolio, given the global shortage of arable land, climate change and increasing demand for quality food as well as stable food supply," Hideki Baba, managing director of Panasonic Factory Solutions Asia Pacific, told reporters.

The facility, which presently has a small production capacity of 3.6 tonnes annually, produces 10 types of vegetables such as mini red radishes and baby spinach.

Indoor farming has found favor with other hi-tech Japanese companies as well. Fujitsu Ltd is growing lettuce at its Fukushima province plant, while Sharp Corp is testing growing strawberries indoors in Dubai.

In Singapore, Panasonic's 248 square meter farm is located inside a factory building on the outskirts of the city, where standard fluorescent lighting gives way to a pinkish-purple glow from LED lights brought in to nurture the plants. The company restricts visitors to maintain the controlled levels of temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide.

It aims to grow more than 30 crop varieties by March 2017 and account for around 5 percent of local vegetable production. It said the vegetables grown at its facility could be half the price of those flown in from Japan.

Panasonic said Singapore was ideal for its indoor farm due to the country's low food self-sufficiency and limited land.

Singapore, ranked by the World Bank as the second most densely populated country, imports more than 90 percent of its food.

Singapore produced nearly 22,000 tonnes of vegetables in 2013, compared with a little more than 17,000 tonnes in 2004, according to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority. Last year it imported 514,574 tonnes of vegetables.

While Singapore ranks fifth out of 109 countries in the Economist Intelligence Unit's global food security index, the government wants to diversify its food sources and become more self reliant in producing eggs, fish and leafy vegetables.

As part of its efforts, it has provided some funding and research support to local vertical farming company Sky Greens, which grows leafy vegetables at its farm in three-storey high frames inside greenhouses.

The farm currently has 600 such towers and intends to expand to 2,000 by next year. It can produce up to one tonne of vegetables a day, which it sells to local supermarket FairPrice. Some farms in Singapore are also using aeroponics or hydroponics - growing plants without soil.

Agro-technology expert Lee Sing Kong said Singapore can improve its food security for perishable items like vegetables, which cannot be stored for long periods unlike grains, by using new techniques of cultivation to increase productivity.

"We must grow some of our own in order to provide a kind of buffer during the period when supply has been disrupted," said Lee, a professor of biological sciences at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University.

Still, some locally grown produce comes at a premium. At FairPrice, Sky Greens' nai bai vegetable retails at more than double the price of an import from China.

(1 US dollar = 1.2470 Singapore dollar)

(Additional reporting by Sophie Knight in TOKYO; Editing by Rachel Armstrong and Emily Kaiser)

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Malaysia: Air quality improves nationwide

THARANYA ARUMUGAM New Straits Times 3 Aug 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: Air quality in the country saw an improvement today, with 15 areas having the Air Pollutant Index (API) at moderate level, as compared to 22 areas on Saturday.

Kg. Air Putih, Taiping had the highest API reading of 79 on Saturday, whereas as of 3pm today, Port Klang and Batu Muda recorded the highest API reading of 66.

This is followed by Seberang Jaya 2, Perai (63), Jalan Tasek (61), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Penang (61), Perai (60), Alor Setar (59), Kuala Terengganu (58), Kuching (57), SK Jalan Pegoh, Ipoh (56), Labuan (55), Kuala Selangor (53) and Petaling Jaya (52).

An API reading of between zero and 50 indicates good air quality; between 51 and 100, moderate; between 101 and 200, unhealthy; between 201 and 300, very unhealthy and over 301, hazardous.

Meanwhile, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel said a total of 4,417 cases of open burning have been detected since January to Aug 2 this year.

He said most of the cases involved agricultural lands, totaling to 1,436 cases, followed by forest (899 cases), construction sites (137 cases), landfills (77 cases), industrial areas (34 cases), and other open burning (819 cases).

“A total of 315 cases of open burning were fined, while 101 cases were issued warning notices, as per the Environmental Quality (Amendment) Act 2012,” he said in a statement on his Facebook page, today.

Palanivel added that DOE had opened investigation papers on 45 cases of open burning, of which 14 cases had been submitted to the deputy public prosecutor and five cases filed at the Sessions Court.

He also said the satellite image by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) detected 46 hotspots in Sumatra and 231 in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, which contributed to the hazy environment in Malaysia.

Sixteen hotspots were detected in Malaysia (11 in Sarawak and five in Sabah).

Public can refer to the DOE portal at to find out the API reading for their areas.

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Indonesia: Satellites Detect 90 Hot Spots in Riau

Jakarta Globe 3 Aug 14;

Pekanbaru. A total of 90 hot spots was detected by the Modis Terra and Aqua satellites in the Sumatran province of Riau on Sunday, the local disaster agency said, according to a media report, and that is a lesser amount compared to the 208 hot spots reported last week.

“Mostly the spots are located in the Rokan Hilir district [where there are] 70 spots,” Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency chief Said Saqlul Amri said on Sunday, as quoted by state-run Antara news agency.

The satellite images also reportedly showed seven hot spots in the city of Dumai and three spots in the Bengkali and Kampar districts respectively.

Six more hot spots are said to be spread across Rokan Hulu, Siak and Indragiri, while another one was found in the Pelalawan district.

The number of hot spots detected by the two satellites, however, differed from that detected by the NOAA 18 satellite, which showed only four hot spots in Riau out of a total of 46 hot spots throughout the Sumatran island. Two are said to be found in the Rokan Hulu district, one in Bengkali and another one in the Indragiri Hilir district.

Some 25,000 hectares of land have been damaged by forest fires since the beginning of this year, the Antara report says, with the smoke interfering with not only the daily activities of local residents but also those of neighboring neighbors such as Singapore and Malaysia.

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Indonesia: A Threat to Asean - Biodiversity Loss

Jamil Maidan Flores Jakarta Globe 3 Aug 14;

There’s a threat to the security of Southeast Asia that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, must confront with hammer and tongs. No, it’s not China, silly. Nor is it the United States. This is a non-traditional threat. It’s called “loss of biodiversity.”

What’s biodiversity all about? The World Wide Fund for Nature calls it the “web of life,” the bond of interaction among all plants and animals in a given environment. The community of living organisms in forests, rivers, lakes, streams, deltas, and marine and coastal waters. “The resource upon which families, communities, nations and future generations depend.”

Remove biodiversity and you don’t have food security. You’ll have famine and drought. Nations will go to war over sources of water. But if we take care of it like the treasure that it is, biodiversity will continue to make life livable for us and our families, our nations, the human race.

The Asean region is blessed with biodiversity. It has only 3 percent of the Earth’s surface, but it’s home to 18 percent of all species — according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

How is Asean taking care of this blessing? It’s doing many things to be sure. After all, Asean has a Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). It has, among other measures, declared various terrestial ecosystems (forests) and marine parks as protected areas. But it isn’t doing nearly enough.

Philippine Permanent Representative to Asean Elizabeth Buensuceso recalls that the Philippines started talking with other member countries in the mid-1990s about filling the lack of regional cooperation on biodiversity management.

In 1999, the Philippines and the European Union launched the Asean Center for Biodiversity, with an initial funding of 9.5 million euros ($13 million). The Philippines provided the land and personnel and bore the operational expenses. The center was completed in 2004.

In September 2005, Asean leaders decided to establish the Asean Center for Biodiversity (ACB). The Philippines agreed to host it. Today the Center is known worldwide for its work in biodiversity conservation and management. Various dialogue partners, aside from the EU, want to partner with the ACB — but there’s a catch.

Indonesia and Cambodia haven’t ratified the agreement establishing the Center. If you are a dialogue partner you would like to see Asean commitment to conserving biodiversity in the form of a unanimous ratification of the agreement before you commit a lot more funds to it. Meanwhile, Asean members contribute to the Center’s funds on a voluntary basis. The Philippines pays for most of its operational expenses.

Buensuceso hopes President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose strongest initiatives have been in foreign policy, will ensure the ratification of the ACB before he turns over the presidency of Indonesia to his successor. That would nicely cap this legacy.

At any rate, it’s time Asean took bolder measures for its biodiversity. In a surprising revelation, Belinda Aruwarnati Margano, formerly of Indonesia’s Forestry Ministry and now with the University of South Dakota, says Indonesia lost 840,000 hectares of forest in 2012, almost double that of the reputed biggest loser, Brazil.

In 2011, satellite imagery showed that Malaysia destroyed 353,000 hectares of its forests. Last year, Cambodia was reported to have lost about 7 percent of its forest cover during a 12-year period, the fifth fastest in the world. At the same time, the Philippines continued to lose more than 50,000 hectares per year of what little is left of its forest cover.

According to the ACB, Asean has the world’s highest loss rate of mangroves — at 26 percent over a 25-year period — and the highest loss rate of coral reefs, at 40 percent.

The bottom line is that we don’t need a war in the South China Sea to experience the worst of hell. We need only do nothing more for our biodiversity.

Jamil Maidan Flores is a Jakarta-based writer whose interests include philosophy and foreign policy. He is also an English-language consultant for the Indonesian government. The views expressed here are his own.

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