In 2019, the The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) announced a target of producing 30% of Singapore’s nutritional needs by 2030, up from less than 10%. The aim is to hit the target by producing more vegetables, fruit and protein sources, such as poultry and fish. In April 2020 the SFA also announced it is launching a SGD $30 million grant to boost the country’s agrifood industry. The fund is dubbed ’30×30 Express’ in reference to Singapore’s goal of domestically sourcing at least 30% of its food by 2030. It will distribute grants to “local agrifood players” that can increase domestic production in three categories – eggs, fish, and leafy vegetables – in the shortest possible time. While this approach is ultimately targeted to help consumers, there are questions about how much it will help our communities, and especially marginalised communities in greater need. This begs the question: can decentralised home farming help to solve the issue and deliver sustainable agriculture to Singaporeans?
With over 3,000 Aerospring hydroponic gardens sold globally, we at Aerospring say yes! Our patented hydroponic systems, which allow gardeners to grow indoors and outdoors all year round, have been estimated to grow over 100kg of fresh produce annually, in just 1 square meter of space. We developed our systems to grow a wide variety of edible plants, from lettuces, pak choy, kale, basil, herbs such as parsley and rosemary, and tomatoes, cucumber, chilis, and many, many more. Our mission is to empower our customers to become self-sufficient in growing their own fresh produce. It also addresses the very real concerns of food safety, while also knowing where your food comes from, and what goes into producing it, ensuring it is free of harmful pesticides.
Most people living in urban areas are almost entirely dependent on food systems for sustenance. Few, if any, urban dwellers grow enough of their own produce to be self-sufficient and this has created a fragile globalised system that brings into question food security across the planet. Our current food system continues to have many implications on our globalised society, but, perhaps the most significant, is the fact that the production and distribution of food have become so far removed from the consumer that most people have almost no idea where their food comes from, how their food is grown, what pesticides are used, how it is transported or who the farmer is that is growing their food.
It also brings into question the nutritional content of the food we are currently consuming as it is becoming increasingly clear that since the industrial revolution every generation has had to deal with the declining nutritional content of their food. The nutritional content of vegetables and fruits has been declining in the United States for the past 70 years, according to a studies in the journal of the American College of Nutrition (ACN) and the American Journal of Agricultural Sciences (AJAS) in Washington, DC. In addition, most produce loses 30 percent of nutrients three days after harvest. The three primary factors that lead to nutrient loss are heat, oxygen, and light. Transportation and time to market are also major factors in nutrient loss.
Turning to food safety, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that that each year in the US alone 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalised, and 3,000 die. Our food gets contaminated in the production, processing, and distribution, across the entire supply chain. According to recent research, seventy percent of consumers said it is important to know how their food and ingredients are manufactured, prepared, and handled. In North America, almost two thirds of consumers cited fear of foodborne illness as the primary reason for wanting more information about their food source. And in APAC, nearly three-quarters (73%) of consumers listed illness and deaths caused by contamination as their biggest concern for risks posed by the food supply chain. The most vulnerable are adults aged 65 and over, children younger than 5 years old, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.
Given these challenges and concerns, it makes sense for consumers to take matters into their own hands, and grow their own food, however much is possible. However, in land-scarce Singapore, this poses many problems. We typically do not have access to our own space for a garden. Community gardens are useful, and certainly help with the solution, but don't solve the problem. And many of us just do not have the time to manage a soil garden, and therefore, this is not a very real solution.
An Aerospring hydroponic garden allows consumers to grow up to 27 plants indoors, and up to 36 plants outdoors, in the equivalent of a 10 square meter space. And as previously mentioned, we estimate that over 100kg of fresh produce can be grown in one of our gardens annually. We do note that the value of this output will vary depending on what you are growing. But for reference, 100kg of fresh basil will cost the average consumer over SGD $5,000 a year. We know the average consumer is not going to consume 100kg of basil a year, so this is just for reference. The point is that having a hydroponic garden at home can significantly impact your grocery bill in a very positive way.
In order to produce 30% of Singapore’s nutritional needs by 2030, we need to consider how consumers can play a role in this effort. Decentralised home farming may be the key to meeting these targets, while also contributing to increased nutritional intake and overall better health.