Densely populated Singapore counts 5.6 million people on 716 km2. The total GDP amounts to 347 billion US dollar, of which almost nothing is derived from the agricultural sector. After its independency, Singapore’s leader decided that the focus should be on urban development. As a consequence, almost all farmers left their land. Therefore, Singapore’s food imports are high and amount to 90% of its total food demand nowadays. The proactive, innovative-minded government of this country has set high targets with respect to waste management (e.g. Zerowaste Singapore, ‘clean and green’ Singapore) and has ambitious objectives regarding the future of food production. It also has the intention to substantially reduce the dependency on external sources for food. Hence it wants to develop a cluster for local urban food production in the near future. By cutting imports, Singapore hopes to become far more self-sufficient with regard to food.
Wageningen MFC has been looking into the feasibility of turning by-products from human food manufacturing into animal feed in Singapore. To that end, Wageningen MFC organized an Academic Consultancy Training (ACT) project together with Wageningen University and Research.
This ACT project has investigated the opportunities for such a “food-to-feed” approach in Singapore by researching the playing field: the legislative boundaries on food and feed, the livestock that is present in Singapore, the food by-products streams that are expected to be available and established initiatives that execute comparable business activities. Also considered are Singapore’s connections with foreign countries in the form of free trade agreements, its innovative structures and excellent logistics structures networks centred on the seaport and airport, and its governmental openness towards private sector participation in national decision making. All these factors have made Singapore a thriving economy, taking a leading position on the world stage.
Review from the WMFC team
As a city-state, Singapore is very special and unique regarding agri-food development. With the almost complete absence of agriculture until now, it has the opportunity of establishing modern and sustainable agri-food practices from scratch. The Singaporean government has the ambition to reach “30 by 30”, meaning producing 30 percent of its nutritional needs locally by 2030. Leafy vegetables, hen eggs, and fish are the prime focus. A well-established logistic infrastructure and education system are advantages for Singapore to achieve this goal and even reach beyond this ambition. Moreover, the impacts of COVID-19 show the importance and necessity such a development.
One of the challenges is that - due to a rather small demand, animal production in Singapore is facing higher prices for feed than its neighbour countries. Therefore, it is relevant to look for alternative feed sources. Using rest- and by-products from human food provision can be one of the solutions, which is an established practice in the EU. It can enhance the circularity of the local agri-food system, can add value to these rest-and by-products, and can offer final products of a high-quality level.
The purpose of this ACT project was to explore the feasibility of applying these practices in Singapore. The ACT team offered us an overview of the current situation that might serve as a basis for further research. One of the handicaps for the ACT team was to acquire sufficient information on the available amount of rest- and by-products from the food processing sector. For that reason, the WMFC team is currently focussing their research on the demand side, the local animal producers. The “30 by 30” goal is taken as the basis for this research.
Our preliminary assumption is that even with the “30 by 30” goal, the demand from the animal producers will still rather small to establish a viable business case. This also makes it less attractive for investors. Therefore, the scale of production is still a critical factor in order to establish a circular system and reduce the dependency on feed import, as well as to attract investments. A similar situation also holds for the development of Black Solider Fly based feed production, and also for other food sectors such as greenhouses. Moreover, education and training for these innovative technologies are important. This might bring the challenge of balancing the spatial demands for agri-food clusters and urban life. Hence long-term master planning for agri-food development in Singapore is recommended.