Best of our wild blogs: 16 Jan 18

10 Feb (Sat): "The Heroic Journey of Sea Turtles" by Aqua Talks
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

10 Feb (Sat): "A Guide to Guiding" - FREE workshop on nature guiding
wild shores of singapore

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Robot swans to help monitor water quality in Singapore’s reservoirs

Vanessa Lim Channel NewsAsia 15 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE: Five robotic swans will be used at various reservoirs in Singapore to monitor raw water quality, announced national water agency PUB on Monday (Jan 15).

The robots, called the Smart Water Assessment Network (SWAN), use water monitoring technology to collect data in real time. They are designed to resemble real swans so as to blend in with the natural surroundings.

Jointly developed by PUB, the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Environmental Research Institute and the Tropical Marine Science Institute, SWAN completed tests in 2016 to evaluate its capabilities in sampling and navigation as well as power usage.

It is one of the technological solutions PUB is adopting to better understand reservoir conditions and improve raw water quality.

The robotic swans will be deployed at Marina, Punggol, Serangoon, Pandan and Kranji reservoir. PUB said more data needs be collected from newer reservoirs Marina, Punggol and Serangoon, so as to better understand the reservoir conditions.

As for Kranji and Pandan, these tend to see greater growth of algae during dry weather, so there is a need to monitor water quality more closely, it said.

Channel NewsAsia first reported on the tests in July 2015. Then, the NUS team said that they conceptualised the robot back in 2010 but only started testing it in 2014.

During the tests, the robotic swans were used to monitor different physical and biological compounds in fresh water, including pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and chlorophyll, which are common indicators used to determine if there are problems in a water source.

At present, water authorities face the logistical challenge of physically having to collect samples from large bodies of water, normally using a boat. It is an approach that requires time and manpower and restricts the speed at which officials can act in the case of an outbreak or a contamination, the researchers said.

The swans work by trawling particular areas of interest in a water body and wirelessly sending back data through cloud computing. Programmers will be able to remotely control the robots, but the aim is to ensure they are as autonomous as possible, requiring just basic monitoring and operation, which can happen from anywhere with an Internet connection.

They are durable enough such that even if a recreational water user such as a kayaker, or even a small boat, hits the robot swans, they will not be damaged, according to the teams behind the technology.

Source: CNA/cy

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Vegetable supplies dipping, could get costlier for Chinese New Year

TAN WEIZHEN The Star 15 Jan 18;

Rainy weather in Malaysia affecting yield of vegetable crops, farms charging S’pore wholesalers more

SINGAPORE — The prices of some vegetables here have climbed 80 to 150 per cent in the past week, and may continue to remain high through to Chinese New Year next month, as the colder weather hits Malaysian farms and is affecting supplies.

The incessant rains and chilly temperatures have caused production to fall at the farms, and some wholesalers and at least one supermarket chain in Singapore are raising prices for the imported vegetables due to the drop in supply.

Prices of vegetables already tend to go up around the Chinese New Year period as families stock up on the produce and push up demand.

Zenxin, a wholesaler at Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre which also owns a farm in Johor, said that the rains in Malaysia have affected its crops by about 30 per cent. Its executive director Mr Tai Seng Yee said: “There has been no sun for a week, plus the heavy rains, so our supply has been affected. Now we have to import from other countries to balance our supply.”

He added that the supply of certain vegetables could remain poor come Chinese New Year, possibly with a shortfall of about 30 per cent. Prices would go up if this happens. “Some crops need between 20 and 40 days to grow. Leaf lettuce, commonly used for steamboat and other dishes during Chinese New Year, and for lion dance performances, need 35 days.

“To ensure sufficient production, some planning is needed, but we can’t plan for unexpected things like bad weather.”

Wholesalers and importers here approached by TODAY said that given the shortfall in supply, the prices they have to pay for vegetables such as kangkong, chye sim, baby bok choy (xiao bai cai), and lettuce have gone up by 80 to 150 per cent.

Mr Jerry Tan, assistant secretary of the Singapore Fruits and Vegetables Importers and Exporters Association, said: “The cold weather is definitely affecting the supply. Prices are already going up. Compared to last week, the prices of certain vegetables have increased by 80 to 100 per cent. That’s quite a lot.”

Mr Tan, who is also the executive director of Hu Lee Impex, an importer and wholesaler of fresh produce, added that it has had to source from other countries such as China, Thailand or Taiwan. The company is monitoring the supply situation day by day, but on Monday (Jan 15), it raised prices by the same quantum (80 to 100 per cent).

Sheng Chai Vegetable Supplier, a wholesaler based at Pasir Panjang WholeSale Centre, is selling vegetables at higher prices to coffee shops, for instance. Owner Lim Lian Chai said: “We usually pay (the farmers) S$1 to S$1.20 per kilogramme for kangkong. Now it has gone up to S$3. It’s the same for chye sim.

“We are raising prices, but we can’t raise too much. Even if it goes up to S$3.50, they (coffee shops) will complain. I’m going to be making losses for sure.”

It has been reported in Malaysia that market prices for vegetables may rise in Singapore ahead of Chinese New Year. In Cameron Highlands, Malaysia’s largest production centre for vegetables with 2,000 farms, temperatures have dropped from a mean of 18°C to 13°C. The frequent rain and lack of sunshine have slowed the growth of the crops.

The Star reported that, in Johor, farmers are reporting a 30 per cent drop in yield, which has resulted in the prices of some vegetables going up by 50 to 100 per cent.


Supermarkets here contacted by TODAY said that they are not raising prices for now, except for Sheng Siong. Its spokesperson said that the increased prices was because prices for vegetables from Malaysia, including kangkong and chye sim, have gone up. “Besides doing our best to keep any price increment reasonable, we also diversify our sources, by sourcing from China, Thailand, and Vietnam for leafy and (non-leafy) vegetables so as to maintain price stability.”

NTUC FairPrice, Cold Storage and Giant said that they are maintaining prices.

Mr Peter Teo, director of fresh products at FairPrice, explained that its “source diversification strategy” ensures a stable supply and moderate costs for essential goods.

“Apart from Malaysia and Singapore, we also source vegetables from other locations including Thailand, China and Indonesia. This also applies to our fruit sources. For example, while supplies of bananas from Malaysia have been affected, we continue to keep a steady supply for the fruit from The Philippines, Ecuador, and Mexico,” he said.

It is similar for Cold Storage and Giant, which said that supply is stable as they work directly with the farms in Malaysia, and they practise “diversified sourcing”.

TODAY understands that for some businesses, long-term contracts are in place to guard against short-term price fluctuations for fresh produce.

Vegetable supply in Singapore, Malaysia affected by continuous rain
Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 15 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE: The prolonged rainy weather and overcast skies have affected the supply of vegetables on both sides of the Causeway, with one distributor saying that the supply from Malaysia has fallen by more than 20 per cent. This has led to a corresponding increase in prices seen by importers.

The supply of produce such as tomatoes, Japanese cucumber and iceberg lettuce, for instance, has dropped by as much as 30 per cent, according to Mr Tan Chin Hian from the Singapore Fruit and Vegetable Importers and Exporters Association (SFVA).

He said these are key vegetables grown and imported from Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands, and prices for those items have increased by as much as 40 per cent. According to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, Malaysia is Singapore’s top source of vegetables.

Sheng Siong supermarket chain has also seen a drop in the supply of vegetables from Malaysia, resulting in higher prices for produce such as kang kong, chye sim and bayam, said a spokesperson.

While it did not respond to queries on the exact price increase, the spokesperson added that the prices of leafy vegetables from Thailand and Vietnam remain stable.

“Besides doing our best to keep any price increment reasonable, we also diversify our sources, by sourcing from China, Thailand, and Vietnam for leafy and fruited vegetables so as to maintain price stability," said the spokesperson.

However, NTUC FairPrice’s director of fresh products, Peter Teo, told Channel NewsAsia that the supermarket chain has not noticed “significant fluctuations” in the price and supply of fruit and vegetable produce at its stores.

“This is due to our source diversification strategy which ensures stable supply and moderate cost of living of essentials for Singaporeans,” Mr Teo said.

“Apart from Malaysia and Singapore, we also source vegetables from alternate locations including Thailand, China and Indonesia. This also applies to our fruit sources – for example, while supplies of bananas from Malaysia have been affected, we continue to keep a steady supply for the fruit from The Philippines, Ecuador, and Mexico.”

SFVA’s Mr Tan also shared similar sentiments, saying that the association has been looking to alternatives such as China and Taiwan to supply produce affected by the rainy weather.


Local farmers too have not been spared by the continuous rain, with those growing leafy green vegetables impacted the most.

Farm 85’s assistant director Tan Liang Zhong said vegetables not sheltered by their greenhouses on the farm have been damaged by the rain. They include vegetables such as bok choy, chai sim as well as spinach. Mr Tan said up to 30 per cent of such crops have started to rot.

“Typically, there is a thin layer of wax around our vegetables to protect them, but under heavy and continuous rainfall as we have had in the past four days, the wax has eventually washed off,” Mr Tan explained.

“This has resulted in the rainwater seeping into the vegetables, resulting in a rot setting in.”

Even those protected under greenhouses have been affected due to a lack of sunlight, and they are growing slower than usual. Mr Tan said its daily produce quota has gone down by almost half.

Up to 90 per cent of the farm’s produce is sold to wholesale centres, while 10 per cent of its supply goes to supermarkets such as Sheng Siong and NTUC FairPrice.

Mr Tan told Channel NewsAsia that unlike the monsoon seasons of previous years, the impact year is quite different.

“Last year, we might have had between one and two hours of heavy rain. This time around, it’s been four days of almost continuous rains,” he said.


Another local farm, Bollywood Veggies, said that while it tends to grow hardier produce, herbs such as its lemongrass crop has taken a hit.

“Almost all the lemongrass we harvest for the farm has been damaged,” Bollywood Veggies’ CEO, Manda Foo said.

“Lemongrass needs drier conditions to survive, but the continuous rain has rotted out its roots.”

But other crops have been thriving thanks to cooler weather, Ms Foo said. They include the blue pea flower, moringa and winged beans.

Comcrop founder Allan Lim also said that herbs such as basil and oakleaf lettuce are thriving in the cooler temperatures. While his urban rooftop farm is at the mercy of the weather, taking steps to ensure the farm’s crops are more resilient to weather changes meant there has not been an adverse impact so far.

“In fact, crops like basil, mint, wasabi lettuce and oakleaf lettuce have increased in volume compared to this time last year, possibly because they do well growing in cooler weather,” Mr Lim said.

The company supplies its produce to online stores like Redmart, and will also extend its supply to supermarkets like NTUC FairPrice.

The rainy weather is expected to ease over the next few days, according to Singapore's National Environment Agency.

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Malaysia: Cold spell in the peninsula has ended - MetMalaysia

The Star 16 Jan 18;

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian “winter” is coming to an end with the gradual upwards inching of the mercury.

Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) director-general Alui Bahari said the cold weather that hit the country the past several days was expected to end as the temperature had begun to normalise.

“The maximum temperature recorded on Sunday was 29°C compared to 26°C over the past few days,” he said in an interview here yesterday.

According to forecast, the temperature in Kuala Lumpur until next Sunday can be as high as 31°C.

Asked if the current cold spell was the longest in recent years, Alui said there was a similar episode back in 2014.

In January 2014, the temperature in Cameron Highlands dipped to as low as 12°C.

Several cities and towns in low-lying areas also recorded temperatures of below 25°C.

Last Thursday, the Klang Valley experienced the coldest weather in months, with temperatures dipping to 21°C.

The department had said that this was due to the effects of the north-east monsoon – overcast sky, incessant rain and cold wind.

Meanwhile, three schools in interior northern Sarawak were forced to close due to floods.

SK Kuala Bok, SK Ranggong and SK Sg Bong in Marudi district had to close after floodwaters rose to between two and four feet, forcing about 200 pupils to return home.

Bomba Sarawak, in its latest report, said apart from the schools, numerous village roads were inundated too.

Jalan Ulu Niah and its road links were closed to all traffic after incessant rain made the roads inaccessible to all types of vehicles


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Malaysia: Cold, wet spell could slow output of veggies and flowers

nelson benjamin and yimie yong The Star 15 Jan 18;

PETALING JAYA: It is not the cold that is bothering farmers much in Cameron Highlands, although temperatures have dropped to 13°C, but the incessant rain and lack of sunshine for their vegetables.

With 2,000 farms in Cameron Highlands, making it the country’s largest production centre for vegetables, farmers are worried the wet, gloomy weather will affect their production by 10% to 15%.

In Johor, farmers are reporting a 30% drop in yield, which has resulted in the prices of some vegetables going up by 50% to 100%.

Things are not looking up for them, with the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) forecasting rain in Johor’s vegetable production areas such as Tangkak, Johor Baru, Simpang Renggam and Pulai for most of the week, except for two sunny days today and tomorrow.

Cameron Highlands Vegetable Growers Association secretary Chay Ee Mong said recent cold weather might slow the growth of vegetables and flowers, but prolonged rainy and cloudy weather is a greater concern as it can affect vegetable production by 10% to 15%.

“Too much rain and less sunlight will affect production,” he said.

However, Chay said it is too soon for consumers to worry about prices during Chinese New Year, as the festive season is still a month away.

He said this is not the first time Cameron Highlands has experienced lower temperatures than usual (according to Wikipedia, the mean annual temperature is 18°C).

“People are more concerned about the cold weather now because it is the first time that the temperature in certain low-lying places has also dipped to a low of 22°C,” he added.

“The impact will not be significant for now but still, we have to see how things go, moving forward.”

Temperatures across the country have dipped below the norm in recent days.

On Saturday, the temperature in Cameron Highlands fell to 13°C, raising concerns that the colder-than-usual weather could affect vegetable and flower production.

“Farming activities are still going on as usual here. Workers will just need to wear more clothes to keep warm,” Chay said.

Cameron Highlands Floricul­turists Association president Lee Peng Fo said prolonged cold weather with temperatures lower than 15°C could also slow the growth of flowers and affect their blooming time.

“If the cold weather continues for more than 10 days, the impact will be significant. Production could be 10% to 20% lower,” he added.

“But for now, we have to wait and see how long the colder weather lasts. It has been colder than usual for about a week.”

In Johor Baru, Federation of Malaysian Vegetable Farmers Association president Tan So Tiok said the cold weather was not good for leafy vegetables.

“Vegetables need a warmer climate with lots of water. My area, Ledang, is experiencing temperatures of 22°C, which is not suitable,” he said, adding that Johor is one of the country’s top vegetable producers after Cameron Highlands.

Among the vegetables that have gone up in price is brinjal, at RM7 per kilo compared with RM3 previously.

Leafy vegetables that cost more now include bayam, kangkung, kailan and sawi.

Asked if there is a shortage of vegetables in the market, he said there is no major shortage so far, nor has there been any disruption in exports to Singapore.

“We hope the weather will improve. It has been raining for almost a week with no sunshine. In Ledang, the daily vegetable output is down from 70 tonnes to 50 tonnes,” he said.

To added he is optimistic that the situation will return to normal before Chinese New Year.


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