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‘Strategic’ food farms to get more funding help from AVA

SINGAPORE — Farmers who want to make the leap to more productive farming systems will receive co-funding of up to S$2 million from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), nearly triple the current cap of S$700,000.

An indoor hydroponic growing system in Singapore. Photo: Reuters

An indoor hydroponic growing system in Singapore. Photo: Reuters

SINGAPORE — Farmers who want to make the leap to more productive farming systems will receive co-funding of up to S$2 million from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), nearly triple the current cap of S$700,000.

The increased co-funding, under the AVA’s Agriculture Productivity Fund’s productivity enhancement component, will be given to “strategic food farms” producing commonly consumed items – hen eggs, leafy vegetables, food fish, quail eggs and bean sprouts.

“Many farmers have told us that they are happy to adopt more productive technology. Advanced greenhouse systems with environmental controls and automation, which can double production, can cost around S$4 million. We appreciate that this poses challenges,” said Senior Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon on Tuesday (March 6).

And because several rounds of trials may be needed before farmers commit to a particular technology or system, the Government will introduce a new test-bedding component to the Agriculture Productivity Fund, said Dr Koh at his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate in Parliament. It will provide 70 per cent co-funding for test-bedding projects, with a cap of S$500,000.

For farms growing ornamental fish, aquatic plants, birds, crocodiles, mushrooms, cattle, goats, and frogs, the AVA will continue to provide 30 per cent co-funding of up to S$300,000 for productivity enhancement and up to S$100,000 for test-bedding projects.

The S$63 million Agriculture Productivity Fund was launched in 2014. Of the 140 applications as of the end-February, the AVA has approved 105 projects from 68 farms and committed about S$12 million.

The authorities will also do more to ensure farms have skilled local manpower, said Dr Koh. Temasek Polytechnic will launch a new Earn and Learn work-study programme to attract graduates from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) to the aquaculture industry.

Under the programme, participating farms can receive incentives of up to S$15,000 for each graduate to defray training costs. Six food fish farms including Barramundi Asia, Apollo Aquaculture Group and Metropolitan Fishery Group have pledged their support.

The starting monthly salary of the ITE graduates under the programme is S$1,200 to S$1,600.

Of the eight who have applied, one has been recruited while the rest will know next week if they are successful. They will begin their 12-month stint next month.

And to help increase demand for local produce, Dr Koh announced that SG Farmers’ Markets will be brought to the heartlands by August. The first one was held at Serangoon Gardens’ myVillage mall last September.

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