To raise awareness of local produce, a taste of Singapore’s own
Fare bearing the new “SG Fresh Produce” logo
About 2,000 hostelites recently enjoyed a fresh “farm-to-table” spread for dinner, which included food items produced in Singapore and with a low carbon footprint.
Organised by the University as part of the Climate Action Week 2020, the so-called WeLL (We go Local and Low-Carbon) Themed Dinner was a tie-in with the Singapore Food Story campaign by the Singapore Food Agency. It aimed to drive home the importance of having a resilient and secure food supply for Singapore.
Together with a talk on urban farming, the two events bookended a week-long (15 to 21 Aug) series of initiatives by the 3P (People, Private and Public) partners of the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment to build public awareness of key issues around sustainability and climate change.
Go local and enjoy a low-carbon dinner
It was a meal with a difference for some 2,000 students as they tucked into their WeLL Themed Dinner, organised on 21 Aug by the NUS Office of Housing Services and the NUS Office of Environmental Sustainability (OES) at three dining halls of NUS’ Residential Colleges.
Besides exhibits by the Singapore Food Agency which made their rounds at the Residential Colleges, there was also a video message by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, on the importance of food security and what Singapore is doing to strengthen its resilience, among other action.
“We currently import more than 90 per cent of our food. This leaves us vulnerable to disruptors such as climate change, market volatilities and animal and plant diseases,” she said.
“This is why it is important that we boost our local food production,” she explained, adding that Singapore has a “30 by 30” goal – to meet 30 per cent of its nutritional needs with locally produced food by 2030, with a focus on vegetables, eggs and fish.
Year 1 University Scholars Programme (USP) student Christopher Ang highlighted how the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of the pressing need to secure a stable supply of local produce. “Disruptions to shipping and air transport makes imports much more volatile. Along with panic buying, Singapore needs to be more self-sufficient,” he said.
Some students expressed concerns about the changing agricultural scene in Singapore. Year 2 USP student Lynette Chia felt that too great a margin for local produce could “bother people who seek selection and variety in food” while Year 3 USP student Ho Yee Yuen felt that diverting more resources to producing food would be “at the expense of something else which we perhaps have a better competitive advantage in”. Still, they both agreed that 30 per cent is a good balance.
Dr Khor also spoke about the need to increase support and demand for local produce in our push towards strengthening food security. The WeLL Themed Dinner did just that. Students got to enjoy meals with dishes prepared using local produce and the freshness of the ingredients did not go unnoticed.
“I really like the salad,” said Jasper, a Year 3 USP student. “Today’s was different, it’s super green and vibrant and looked like a painting. I was so happy, I took a tonne of it.”
The dinner was well received and it encouraged students to support local produce. Lynette said she would purchase more locally sourced food as it would greatly reduce her carbon footprint.
Changing the farming scene in Singapore
An online talk on Sustainable Urban Farming – Reimagining food production in Singapore, was organised by OES and the NUS Office of Alumni Relations as part of the Kent Ridge Alumni Family Day on 15 Aug.
The talk featured NUS alumna Ms Danielle Chan from the NUS Arts and Social Sciences Class of 2018, co-founder of Citiponics, Singapore’s first urban vertical farm located in the heartlands. She shared how Citiponics is into sustainable, zero-waste proprietary farming technology with aim to turn under-utilised car park rooftops into spaces for growing safe and pesticide-free produce for the community.
“This allows us to bring our farms to the locals’ backyard, and connecting the locals to their food source,” said Ms Chan, adding that a direct farm-to-table experience would reduce food miles and guarantee freshness.
Citiponics’ farming system consumes just one per cent of the water used in traditional farming and 10 per cent of that for hydroponics farming, and is able to produce seven times the crop output of traditional farming.
Indeed, as Dr Khor highlighted in her message, to meet challenges of the future and the needs of today’s consumers, Singapore aims to veer away from traditional farming methods by producing a steady stream of products using innovative high-tech solutions that are sustainable, resource-efficient, and productive.
“The infusion of technology into farming has altered the shape and character of the industry. It is no longer the back-breaking, labour-intensive industry that some imagine, but an exciting sector with interesting developments… and which will offer young graduates a great career,” said Dr Khor.
Attended by more than 400 participants comprising NUS alumni, staff and students, the session drew enthusiastic response from the audience and concluded with a very lively question and answer segment.
By the NUS Office of Environmental Sustainability, with contributions by NUS Cinnamon College.