Singapore’s largest indoor farm to give food firms and national food security a boost
With investment and support from one of the most technologically-advanced indoor vertical farming companies, Sanan Sino-Sciences Photobiotech (SananBio), Singapore’s VertiVegies is building a 20,000m2 indoor vertical plant factory in the Lim Chu Kang area.
“After years of intensive research in this upcoming disruptive sector, we are pleased to enter the Singapore market with our local partner, VertiVegies. Singapore’s unique situation where there is limited land availability makes the deployment of high-technology farming very important, and we are excited to provide effective solutions through our technology for Singapore and the region, to facilitate necessary steps towards food security,” said Zhan Zhuo, CEO of SananBio.
“We hope this partnership will give a significant boost to Singapore’s agri-tech industry, catalyse future research collaborations, and create opportunities for regional expansion,” added Png Cheong Boon, CEO of Enterprise Singapore.
For industry and nation
The new indoor vertical plant factory will produce many varieties of fresh and sustainable vegetables to supply the country, which includes leafy greens, microgreens, herbs and fruits.
One of VertiVegies' directors, Veera Sekaran, told FoodNavigator-Asia that local food manufacturers and processors would now have the new option to use or process local varieties, which was something “previously inconceivable”. The facility and its produce will also “improve their operations” due to the food safety, traceability, nutrition and improved shelf life offered.
He said the company would explore all sales channels, including food processors and “other B2B avenues”, and has already initiated discussions with various local customers.
As for the nation, the produce will be for the local market and will provide an array of fresh, nutritious and safe vegetable products, boosting the island’s so-far limited agricultural produce.
“This (factory) will be able to produce all year round, irrespective of external climatic conditions,” another director, Ankesh Shahra, told us.
“We will reduce dependency on Old World industrial food supply chains that transport our food from miles and miles away. We will finally have a choice to consume locally, and that will reduce our dependency on a carbon-fuelled journey that promotes waste and greenhouse emissions.”
The new indoor vertical plant factory is expected to be ready by May 2019.
VertiVegies said the facility’s controlled environment cultivation has the power to positively impact Singapore’s food landscape by fulfilling the four pillars of food security: nourishment, waste reduction, resilience to climate change and local production.
The chemical-free facility will use hydroponics to grow plants, thereby eliminating the need for soil. There will be no chemical or pesticide used in the farming of the vegetables as compared to traditional soil-based farms.
The produce will be cultivated in high-end clean rooms with special filters and ultraviolet (UV) light, all designed to enhance food safety and nutrition. Moreover, Sanan Group, the parent company of SananBio, is the market leader in the manufacturing of efficient LEDs — providing a competitive advantage in cost-efficient cultivation.
Additionally, the intuitive system will automatically regulate temperature, water, humidity and the input of nutrients.
The factory utilises 90% recycled water, further preserving Singapore’s limited resources.
Other sustainability features of the facility include bio waste management and the use of renewable energy with solar power. The design of the facility also manages its energy requirements and minimises the overall energy outgo with optimised air circulation and cooling systems.
“We are providing radical solutions to very specific and continuing problems that Singapore faces, and this is the biggest motivation for us to innovate and persevere,” said Ankesh.
According to the firm, the factory’s automation will also provide jobs for domestic talent in Singapore for operating and maintaining these advanced facilities, which will require unique skillsets. The dependency on foreign labour for manual processes will therefore also be reduced.
Standards helping industry
Just a few months ago, Singapore launched its first organic standard, which officials believed was the world’s first organic standard for produce grown in urban and indoor conditions.
Previously, if producers wanted to sell their produce as “organic” in Singapore, they had to obtain certification from an overseas accreditation body.
“We welcome certification as regulation will help the industry,” Veera told us.
“We will comply with all the requirements set forward by the Singapore Standards Council.”
According to the agreement, SananBio will invest for an equity stake of 25% in VertiVegies Pte Ltd. The remaining 75% stake will be held equally by Veera and Ankesh, the directors and promoters of VertiVegies.
VertiVegies will also use full-scale production hardware from Sanan.