Best of our wild blogs: 10 Feb 18

11 Feb (Sun): Registration opens for St John's Islands walk on 4 Mar (Sun)
Celebrating Singapore Shores

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AVA awards 10 land parcels to vegetable farmers with innovative concepts

Derek Wong Straits Times 9 Feb 18;

SINGAPORE - Ten vegetable farming land parcels in Lim Chu Kang have been awarded to eight companies based on their concept proposals rather than the amount they bid.

This means that the farmers did not have to worry about engaging in a price war for the land, but focused more on refining their ideas, having in mind Singapore's push for greater productivity through technological innovation and efficient use of scarce resources.

It is the first time the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has awarded a tender on such grounds, the authority said in a press statement on Friday (Feb 9). It was launched in August 2017.

The size of the plots are about 2ha each and sold for $273,000 to $317,000 with a 20-year term. They are located in Neo Tiew Lane, Neo Tiew Link and Neo Tiew Place.

There were 12 land plots put up for tender, but two remain unsold as there were no suitable proposals for them, said AVA. This land will be re-tendered.

The winning proposals feature productive and innovative farming systems. These include green houses with automation and smart controls, multi-tier hydroponic systems using LED lights and data analytics to optimise growing conditions, and multi-storey farms that use automated soil-less cultivation system and robotics.

One of the winning submissions was a joint effort by Farm deLight and KG Farm. They will be paying $288,000 for their 20,167 sq m land plot.

Farm deLight's general manager Edmund Wong, 51, is looking forward to bringing his indoor-farming methods to a bigger space. Currently housed in a 600 sq m space in Boon Lay, it uses a soil-based growing method (geoponics) and organic fertilisers, with the plants stacked in tiers.

High-tech automation and artificial lighting allow Mr Wong to control the environment's humidity and carbon dioxide composition, among other things.

He now mostly provides herbs for a niche fine-dining market via business-to-business transactions.

But with the new space, Mr Wong intends to extend the operations to produce leafy vegetables like lettuce for the mass market.

"We intend to start making sales on the new land within nine months to a year," said Mr Wong.

Eden PurelyFresh Farm, another winning tenderer, is also at the cutting edge of farming technology.

Its chief executive officer Desmond Khoo, 30, will create a "hybrid" farm on the new space, with some sections using a multi-tier system and others using hydroponics in shipping containers. The farm will also harness solar energy and collaborate with Fresh Hub Vending to continually study technological improvements to the space.

Mr Khoo said even artificial intelligence or robotics are possible add-on options in future.

He hopes to kick off full-scale operations in less than a year.

"The work starts now," he said.

Mr Melvin Chow, AVA's group director for food supply resilience, said: "These proposals have the potential to optimise scarce land, reduce reliance on unskilled labour and bolster Singapore's food security."

Concept proposals were evaluated by a Tender Evaluation Committee (TEC) comprising external experts with deep knowledge in agriculture sciences and technology, as well as relevant government agencies.

It assessed the proposals using criteria such as production capability, production track record, relevant experience and qualification of the applicant, and innovation and sustainability.

Seven of the eight successful tenderers are local companies. AVA will be tendering more land for vegetable farming in the second quarter of 2018 and from 2019.

Eight companies clinch 10 plots of land for vegetable farming
Today Online 10 Feb 18;

Two awardees are not existing local farmers, tenderers competed solely on concept

SINGAPORE — Eight companies, including two new entrants to the farming scene here, have clinched the first batch of land parcels offered by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) through a fixed-price tender method.

The AVA announced on Friday (Feb 9) that it had awarded 10 of the 12 vegetable-farming parcels in Lim Chu Kang that were launched for tender last August.

The exercise was the first time the AVA tendered out land with a fixed price upfront for interested parties to compete solely on the concept of their proposals.

Two of the 12 parcels were not awarded because there were “no suitable proposals”, and would be re-tendered in future to “provide further opportunities for productive and progressive farms”, an AVA spokesperson said.

The sites offered were about two hectares each and have 20-year leases. Prices started from S$273,000 and the tender drew 28 parties by the time it closed on Oct 26 last year.

Meod, which describes itself as a provider of “plug and play gardening solutions” on its website, clinched the most number of plots — three. The company already operates a one-hectare plot of farm at the D'Kranji Farm Resort.

The other companies clinched one parcel each.

Sunpower Grand Holdings was the only foreign firm among the eight successful tenderers. It is part of the Singapore-headquartered Sun Power Grand Holdings Group, a Taiwanese entity which manufactures opto-electronics products and has developed technology for growing hydroponic fruits and vegetables.

The successful companies incorporated productive and innovative farming systems, the AVA said. They included greenhouses with automation and smart controls, multi-tier hydroponic systems using LED lights and data analytics to optimise growing conditions, and multi-storey farms that use robotics and automated soil-less cultivation systems.

The companies were assessed on their production capability, production track record, relevant experience, and innovation and sustainability.


One of the awardees, Vertivegies, intends to build nine six-storey modular structures, each measuring about 30m by 30m and resembling apartment buildings. Its founder and managing director Veera Sekaran, 55, said that vegetables would be grown on the top five stories, with the lowest storey housing pumps and control systems.

Mr Veera, who also founded an urban and vertical-greenery firm called Greenology, added that the new project would be his first large-scale commercial farming venture. Last year, he farmed vegetables using containers and discovered that each 40-foot container was able to yield about 5,000 heads of lettuce every three to four weeks.

Mr Veera, a botanist, expects to get Vertivegies’ first structure up within a year, and hopes to break even in three to five years. He plans to grow local tropical vegetables as well as “value-added varieties” such as butterhead lettuce and kale.

Without the fixed-price tender method, he said that it would be difficult to take part in the tender.

“One of the challenges in urban farming has always been land cost, especially in Singapore… It’s very difficult to grow vegetables when land prices are that high,” he said. “Getting awarded is definitely a very exciting thing. We were not expecting it (as) there were 28 tenderers.”

Mr Melvin Chow, AVA’s group director of food supply resilience, said that the winning proposals have the potential to optimise scarce land, reduce reliance on unskilled labour and bolster Singapore’s food security.

The companies are required to meet the production levels declared in their tender proposals, the authority said.

Last October, it launched the tender for the second tranche of land parcels for farm use. The three plots for farming of food fish drew five tenderers.

There will be more land tenders for vegetable farming in the second quarter of this year and from 2019 onwards.

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Raffles Place to get green spaces, cycling paths

Wendy Wong Channel NewsAsia 9 Feb 18;

SINGAPORE: The area around Raffles Place will soon become a green, more "people-friendly" zone, with a new park and cycling paths in the pipeline, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on Friday (Feb 9) at the groundbreaking ceremony for the redevelopment of Golden Shoe Car Park.

“If the original Golden Shoe was remembered as a place for cars, I hope the new Golden Shoe will become known as a place for people,” said Mr Wong. “We must enhance our streetscape and transform this area into a vibrant people-friendly zone.”

As part of the plans, a stretch of Market Street between the former Golden Shoe Car Park and Republic Plaza will be permanently closed to traffic and converted into a new public park. The space, which is about 1,000 sqm, will include a new sheltered linkway connecting Golden Shoe Car Park to the existing sheltered pedestrian network from Raffles Place MRT station.

Footpaths along Market Street, Malacca Street and Phillip Street will be widened for both pedestrians and cyclists, with greenery on the roadside. A series of sheltered linkways along Malacca Street will also provide sheltered connectivity between Raffles Place station and nearby developments.

Additionally, cycling paths will be built along these streets, connecting to upcoming cycling paths forming part of the Central Area cycling network.

Plans for the upcoming Golden Shoe Car Park were also announced at the event. These included a public atrium on the ground floor of the integrated development, which can be used for community events.

The Market Street Food Centre, which is currently operating from an interim site beside Telok Ayer station, will be located on the second and third floors of the development.

The new development will also feature a four-storey Green Oasis, comprising a “jungle gym, treetop cocoons, sky hammocks” as well as “cascading landscapes at the rooftop which will house a restaurant and Singapore’s highest urban farm”, CapitaLand said in a press release.

Facial recognition technology, sensors, Internet of Things and artificial intelligence technology will also be deployed throughout the development to “optimise user experiences and business operations”, along with robots and digital technologies to supplement cleaning and security services.

A cycling path around the development’s perimeter will be incorporated, as well as 165 bicycle lots and end-of-trip facilities for users.

The enhancement plans for Raffles Place were developed by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Land Transport Authority and National Parks Board, which will work closely with CapitaLand to implement them in tandem with the redevelopment of Golden Shoe Car Park.

The integrated development is expected to be completed progressively by the first half of 2021.

Source: CNA/hs

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Number of dengue cases falls to 16-year low: NEA

Channel NewsAsia 9 Feb 18;

SINGAPORE: The number of dengue cases in 2017 was 2,772, the lowest in the last 16 years, the National Environment Agency (NEA) announced on Friday (Feb 9).

In a media release, NEA said this “relatively low number” is likely to have been facilitated by the immunity of the local population following the high number of dengue cases in the last few years.

“The low base of dengue cases at the beginning of the year due to a concerted effort by all stakeholders in response to the Zika outbreak in the second half of 2016 would also have been a factor,” said NEA.

NEA also identified the removal of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes by NEA’s network of Gravitraps deployed across the island as another contributing factor to the lower number of dengue cases.

NEA has deployed around 50,000 Gravitraps to monitor the Aedes population in Singapore. Apart from providing data to guide NEA’s efforts to focus its inspections on areas with high Aedes mosquito populations, the traps have also served to remove a large number of adult Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in 2017.

“This complemented the efforts of the community, premises owners and other stakeholders in suppressing the mosquito population,” said NEA.


NEA has urged all members of the public and stakeholders to continue to prevent mosquito breeding in order to suppress the Aedes mosquito population and keep the dengue incidence low. This follows a 37 per cent increase in Aedes aegypti mosquito detection by the Gravitraps in January this year, compared to September 2017.

NEA said the current low momentum of dengue transmission offers an opportunity to disrupt the spread of the disease more effectively in the community. Community action and sustained vector control efforts are thus needed to prevent further escalation of the Aedes population and a surge in dengue cases. Such efforts will also contribute towards preventing the transmission of Zika and Chikungunya viruses, the media release added.

As the Chinese New Year festive season approaches, NEA reminds stakeholders to exercise more vigilance when spring cleaning, disposing of refuse and decorating with ornamental plants in order to avoid unintentionally creating mosquito breeding habitats. NEA also reminds those travelling overseas during the upcoming holiday period to “mosquito proof” their homes.

The latest updates on the dengue situation can be found on the NEA’s website, the Stop Dengue Now Facebook page or on the myENV app.

Source: CNA/zl

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Malaysia: Night walk in March to protect endangered turtles

The Star 9 Feb 18;

MELAKA: The public in Melaka, especially nature lovers, can support the ongoing Hawksbill turtle conservation efforts in the state by registering for the Earth Hour 2018 Night Walk here next month.

State housing, local government and environment committee chairman Datuk Wira Ismail Othman said all funds raised from the March 24 event would be channelled to World Wide Fund for Nature-Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia) conservation efforts, including protecting the turtles.

He said the population of the endangered species had been shrinking from year to year despite thousands of Hawksbill baby turtles being released into the Straits of Malacca yearly after being hatched at the Turtle Conservation and Information Centre in Padang Kemunting, Masjid Tanah.

“The decline is caused, among others, by the low survival rate of the baby turtles which were released into the sea.

“For every 1,000 released, only one or two survive major threats such as predators and habitat destruction,” he said after announcing the scheduled Earth Hour 2018 Night Walk programme at Graha Makmur in Ayer Keroh.

Also present were Melaka Historic City Council (MBMB) mayor Datuk Wira Zainal Hussin, WWF-Malaysia policy and climate change head Lavanya Rama Iyer and MBMB councilor Mohd Fadhil Hassan.

Ismail said MBMB and the state Fisheries Department would continue to work closely with WWF-Malaysia in conservation efforts to protect Hawksbill turtles and its eggs.

He said marine turtles such as Hawksbill turtles played important roles in the ocean by maintaning healthy habitats for marine life and keeping a balance in the marine food web.

“If we do not start to recognise and appreciate the values turtles provide to us, the remaining turtle population will be in danger of becoming extinct,” he said.

Registration for the 2.6km Earth Hour 2018 Night Walk can be made at before March 11 and the fee is RM65 per participant.

Registered participants will receive a walk pack comprising 100% cotton, eco-friendly Earth Hour 2018 T-Shirt and a medal made from recycled wood.

Medals will only be distributed to participants who complete the walk at the end of the Earth Hour 2018 Night Walk.

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