How to: Be a farmer in Singapore
Lee Kia En
With the Singapore government aiming to develop the capability and capacity of the local agri-food industry, perhaps it is time to finally pursue your childhood dream of being a farmer in the technologically advanced, concrete jungle of the 21st century. Alas, being a farmer in Singapore is no easy feat. One cannot simply find a piece of land and build their farm. Hence, besides researching the type of food to produce and the method of production, how exactly does one attain the land, labour and approval to start a farm?
With only around 720 square kilometres of land to work with, Singapore’s aim for self-sustenance in food while still ensuring sufficient housing and space for other purposes seem daunting.
Yet, with agriculture-based innovation and the introduction of high-technology farming, farming in a small, controlled environment indoors is now possible. Singapore still has many factors to consider, and it can take from 14 to 20 months to become a farm owner.
The first step towards owning a farm is to bid for the land tender and submit the production plans on how the farm will be run. Such a process makes the bidding for agricultural land extremely competitive. Under the aim to optimise land for production, the most efficient and optimised proposals will be supported by the Singapore Food Agency and awarded the tender and plan endorsement. This means that all approved farms in Singapore have their methodology and rationale thoroughly checked through prior to operation. It is only with both would the farm be one step closer to fruition.
Done with the bidding and space consideration phase, one will move towards the planning phase where one has to acquire approval from numerous government stakeholders, from the Urban Redevelopment Agency to the Land Transport Authority and even to National Parks. These permissions fall under development control to ensure that the development of the farm falls in line with overall land use planning for Singapore and that other areas of infrastructure development can make adequate responses.
Once approved, the structure and architecture work begins. To ensure that building requirements such as fire safety are met, the Building and Construction Authority as well as other government agencies must certify the building before it is able to operate. This ensures the structural safety and usability of the premise that would be used to produce food Singaporeans will be consuming. Lastly, once the Certificate of Statutory Completion was given to the farm owner, the farm can start operations.
The bureaucratic requirements in Singapore make it difficult and intimidating to become a farmer. This is despite the need to secure buyers, suppliers, and investors. On the other hand, this ensures that the individuals crossing the barrier are passionate about the work and the issue of food security. If you still wish to become a farmer in Singapore, fret not as you can easily seek professionals and qualified individuals to guide you through these red tapes. With increasing support from the government and numerous grants that you can apply for from agencies such as Singapore Enterprise and Startup SG, perhaps the climb across the barrier would be smooth and worth it after all.
These procedures, coupled with regular mandatory inspections every 5 years, ensure the safety and health of Singaporeans while reducing the reliance on imported foods. Fresh, trustworthy, and transparent local food is thus made available to consumers, helping strengthen Singapore's food security.