A False Sense of Food Security in High-tech Farming

Earlier this month, AVA announced that 10 parcels of vegetable farming land in Kranji will be awarded to 8 companies. These are all high-tech farming companies that use “productive  and  innovative  farming  systems, such  as  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 automated soilless cultivation system and robotics”.

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Source: AVA website

On AVA’s website, the first thing listed under “What We Do” is ensuring food supply resilience. To me, food resilience and security is about meeting our entire population’s minimal nutritional needs with safe food during all situations. There are 3 reasons why I think leasing our agricultural land to these high-tech farms do not contribute to that.

1) Poor Calories

Calorie is key for food resilience. One can survive somewhat miserably on a pure rice diet. Change it to a pure chye sim diet and it’s a different story. These high-tech farms are definitely not growing rice. How about farming high-calorie vegetables that are full of carbohydrates to fill your stomach, like tapioca or sweet potato? After all, these were the kinds of food our grandparents and parents survived on during the Japanese occupation when there wasn’t enough to eat. Well, these companies are only allowed to grow leafy vegetables. Not root vegetables or even fruiting vegetables like long bean and eggplant. Continue reading

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Plastic Farming in Yunnan, China

Plastic sheet mulchI was traveling in Yunnan in April earlier this year. Yunnan is in Southwest China and borders Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar. It is one of the most mountainous regions in China and boasts a large plant variety due to the varying climates.

While strolling along the roadside to a nearby mountain, I saw many small-time farmers working the field. The villagers in this region are typically of the Bai ethnic minority group, one of the many within Yunnan province. I was curious with the way they are farming and decided to venture into the terraced fields to speak to them. Somehow I ended up helping them farm. This amused them greatly and drew many stares. Continue reading