Best of our wild blogs: 17 Aug 17

The Darker Side of Pulau Hantu
Hantu Blog

31 Aug: Singapore Eco Film Festival Opening Night
Green Drinks Singapore

Read more!

AVA, Sumitomo Chemical to start full-scale rooftop farming test cultivation

ANGELA TAN Business Times 17 Aug 17;

THE Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and Sumitomo Chemical will begin full-scale test cultivation of farm produce on the rooftop of AVA's research facility this month, with the aim of establishing sustainable urban farming by 2018.

The project, which aims to promote urban farming to enhance food supply resilience in land scarce Singapore, sees the AVA and Sumitomo Chemical using rooftops of buildings for urban farming, based on Japan's proprietary technology. Other participants of the project include Kaneko Seeds from Japan, and Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Sumitomo Chemical will look into further specifics for the project, including a produce distribution system to be established. It will also set up an operational model for sustainable urban farming by around 2018, which it can use to expand the urban farming business in Asia and globally.

Commenting on the project, Damian Chan, executive director of Energy & Chemicals, Singapore Economic Development Board, said: "Agriculture chemicals is a speciality chemicals end-market that Singapore identified to have good growth potential, and where our innovation capacity and strong inter-agency collaboration could provide the foundation for companies to test-bed new innovative solutions before scaling them to the region."

Mr Chan added that Sumitomo Chemical's foray into urban farming demonstrates how Singapore can innovate to develop unique solutions to solve global problems such as food security.

Read more!

12 plots of farm land in Lim Chu Kang put up for sale on 20-year leases

Channel NewsAsia 17 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE: Twelve plots of farm land in Lim Chu Kang with longer leases of 20 years were put up for public tender on Thursday (Aug 17).

Nine are located at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane, two at Neo Tiew Harvest Link and one at Neo Tiew Harvest Place, said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) in a news release.

The plots, which are intended for vegetable farming, range in size from 20,050.4 sq m to 21,239.9 sq m. They are part of the 60 hectares of land set aside by AVA earlier this year for food farming in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah.

This is the first tranche of a total of 36 plots which will be put up for tender from August this year. Another three plots for fish farming will be put up for tender in October.

In the second quarter of next year, seven plots for vegetables, quails' eggs and general food farming will be open for tender. The remaining 14 plots, for leafy vegetables, beansprouts and general agriculture farming, will be available from 2019.


The longer lease period for new plots of farm land, an increase from the previously announced 10-year blocks, was announced in May after some farmers raised concerns over what they said was too short a time for them to invest in technology and automation.

The 20-year lease will give farms more certainty and let them invest in more productive technologies, AVA said then.

New methods will be used to tender these plots of land, AVA said. For leafy vegetables, fish, beansprouts and quail egg farming, a fixed price tender method will be used. Under this method, the land price will be fixed and those who make bids will compete purely on the tender proposals submitted.

A concept and price tender method will be used for general agriculture farming, where a tender will be awarded to shortlisted candidates with the highest land price.

The tender for the current tranche will close at noon on Oct 26.

Source: CNA/nc

Tender opens for 12 land parcels for vegetable farming
Kok Xing Hui Straits Times 17 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE - Twelve land parcels for vegetable farming in Lim Chu Kang - the first to be tendered out on concept rather than price - were put on sale by public tender on Thursday (Aug 17) by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).

This means that farmers will not have to worry about engaging in a price war to secure land.

Instead, their proposals will be judged on factors such as production capability, track record, relevant experience and qualifications, and whether they can harness innovation to improve and sustain production, and keep their businesses viable.

The lot prices are fixed and come at a 20-year term.

Plots have a land area of at least 20,000 sq m and are located along Neo Tiew Lane, Neo Tiew Link and Neo Tiew Place. Prices range from $13.62 per sq m to $14.92 per sq m.

A 20,167 sq m plot in Neo Tiew Lane, for example, will cost $276,000 for farming without an aquaponic system and $288,000 for farming with an aquaponic system.

Land prices were fixed by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore's Chief Valuer's Office, which took reference from prices of agriculture land sold by the Government, said the AVA.

The 12 parcels are part of the 36 new plots of farmland in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah that AVA will put out on 20-year leases.

The other three types of farmland to be tendered out in this way over the next few years will be for quail eggs, food fish and bean sprouts.

Other plots for general agriculture food farms, such as frog and goat farms, will be tendered using concept and price. Proposals will first be evaluated on concept. Of the shortlisted candidates, the one with the highest bid will then win the tender, said the AVA.

The last time land was tendered out for agricultural use was more than two decades ago.

Tender packets containing details and conditions of tender of the land parcels are available for sale at the AVA Service Centre at Jem in Jurong. The tender will close at noon on Oct 26.

Come end-2021, the leases of 62 farms in Lim Chu Kang will run out, and the land will be given over to military use.

Spurring R&D in farming
Audrey Tan Straits Times 17 Aug 17;

Instead of trying to get farmers to outbid one another for new farmland that will be released later this month, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) will have them out-think the competition with their concepts.

When new farmland for growing leafy vegetables is released, the plots will be tendered out on a concept - not price - basis.

This means that the price of the land will be fixed, and farmers will not have to worry about engaging in a price war in trying to secure the land.

Such a tender method - adopted for the first time by the AVA - will give farmers more liquidity to invest in high-tech equipment or research and development (R&D) to increase productivity and yield.

Releasing land this way could help to push farmers initially sceptical about such investments to take the first step. This is especially so because their bids will be based on concepts instead, and judged on factors such as production capability, track record, relevant experience and qualifications, and whether they can harness innovation to improve and sustain production, and keep their businesses viable.

Under this fixed-price tender method, land will be parcelled out by farm type. Other than leafy vegetables, the other three farm types to be tendered out this way, over the next few years, will be for quail eggs, food fish and beansprouts.

This new tender method is an important move for Singapore's food security. It comes at a time when farmland in land-scarce Singapore continues to shrink and climate change poses a threat to global food supplies more than ever.

Currently, local food production meets less than 10 per cent of total food demand. Singapore has to step up its food security within the constraints of limited land - and the way to do this is through R&D.

But encouraging innovation would take more than a day. Mindsets have to be changed through policy, while also taking into account farmers' financial constraints. This tender method seems set to help do that.

Audrey Tan

Read more!

Fish mistaking plastic debris in ocean for food, study finds

Behavioural evidence suggests marine organisms are not just ingesting microplastics by accident but actively seeking them out as food
Fiona Harvey The Guardian 16 Aug 17;

Fish may be actively seeking out plastic debris in the oceans as the tiny pieces appear to smell similar to their natural prey, new research suggests.

The fish confuse plastic for an edible substance because microplastics in the oceans pick up a covering of biological material, such as algae, that mimics the smell of food, according to the study published on Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Scientists presented schools of wild-caught anchovies with plastic debris taken from the oceans, and with clean pieces of plastic that had never been in the ocean. The anchovies responded to the odours of the ocean debris in the same way as they do to the odours of the food they seek.

The scientists said this was the first behavioural evidence that the chemical signature of plastic debris was attractive to a marine organism, and reinforces other work suggesting the odour could be significant.

The finding demonstrates an additional danger of plastic in the oceans, as it suggests that fish are not just ingesting the tiny pieces by accident, but actively seeking them out.

Matthew Savoca, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and lead author of the study, told the Guardian: “When plastic floats at sea its surface gets colonised by algae within days or weeks, a process known as biofouling. Previous research has shown that this algae produces and emits DMS, an algal based compound that certain marine animals use to find food. [The research shows] plastic may be more deceptive to fish than previously thought. If plastic both looks and smells like food, it is more difficult for animals like fish to distinguish it as not food.”

Plastic debris in the oceans, ranging from the microscopic to large visible pieces, is recognised as a growing problem as it does not readily degrade and hundreds of thousands of tonnes are dumped in the sea annually. Larger pieces have been found in the intestines of whales and seabirds, where they are thought to be potentially fatal, while the smallest pieces have been detected in the guts of even juvenile fish and molluscs. Numerous species of fish eaten by humans have been found to contain plastic, and the effect of eating these on human health is still unknown.

Efforts to reduce marine plastic have so far had little effect: microbeads widely used in cosmetics and other products have been banned in the US, the UK and other countries, but they only solve part of the problem, which is mainly caused by dumping of plastic rubbish. There could be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050, campaigners have warned.

Scientists have struggled to understand exactly how the massive increase in plastics may be affecting the behaviour of fish and marine ecosystems, and how to contain the problem.

A previous paper published in the journal Science that alleged juvenile fish were attracted to microplastics “like teenagers after junk food” was withdrawn earlier this year after controversy. The scientists involved in that paper, who have no relation to the authors of today’s study, were suspected of having exaggerated their data or failed to carry out the purported experiments properly. The new paper did not draw on that publication.

Read more!