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New 18ha innovation park for agri-tech sector

The Business Times by JANICE HENG

Singapore

FOOD and agri-technology is a new growth sector and potential export industry that Singapore is exploring, with a new 18 hectare innovation park in Sungei Kadut, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon said in his ministry's Committee of Supply on Monday.

Noting that the food and agri-tech sector is a US$5 trillion global industry, Dr Koh said: "Our good innovation climate, our strong talent base, reputation for food safety and strategic location position us very well to capture a slice of this industry, particularly here in Asia." The vision is for Singapore to be an urban agriculture and aquaculture technology hub "with a food production model that can be exported to the region".

The Ministry of Trade and Industry is working with local and overseas industry players to develop the first phase of the Agri-Food Innovation Park, which will be ready from the second quarter of 2021 with potential for future expansion.

The park will bring together high-tech farming and research and development (R&D) activities, such as indoor plant factories, insect farms and animal feed production facilities.

MTI said such clustering could create chances for partnership and shared resources. Possibilities might include aquaculture and nutrition firms working together to develop better functional feeds, or firms sharing facilities for processing, logistics, and R&D. Waste products of one activity could become inputs for another, such as food remains for compost.

The park will form part of a larger Northern Agri-Tech and Food Corridor, with Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah North farms to the west, and Senoko Food Zone to the east.

Dr Koh is leading a multi-agency team looking at how to support the agri-tech sector in the areas of industry and enterprise development, R&D, manpower and regulations.

Another growth area is advanced manufacturing. Since the launch of the Singapore Smart Industry Readiness Index in November 2017, over 230 funded assessments have been awarded and over 150 manufacturers have been helped in preparing for Industry 4.0, said Dr Koh.

Transforming industries and developing new growth areas was one of four strategies which Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing laid out, alongside strengthening capabilities, empowering businesses and consumers, and improving linkages.

Singapore's connectivity includes both physical and non-physical ties, said Mr Chan, giving details of the Global Ready Talent Programme that combines three existing schemes.

It has two components: an overseas internship for Singapore students, and a management associate programme for young professionals. Singapore firms can get up to 70 per cent funding support for the allowance or salary of participants.

As for trade linkages, Mr Chan had just been in Siem Reap, Cambodia, for the seventh Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Intersessional Ministerial Meeting. Responding to MP Liang Eng Hwa, Mr Chan said the 16 partners have reaffirmed their determination to do their best to conclude the RCEP this year. A 2019 workplan has been agreed, with intermediate targets set for each month.

With four partners - India, Indonesia, Thailand and Australia - holding elections from now till end-May, the aim is to clear as many of the technical issues as possible by June, he said. The August meeting in China will then be a critical milestone for the countries to commit politically.

Expanding Singapore's network of free trade agreements "ensures the diversification of our markets and supply chains, to not overly rely on any one particular market", said Mr Chan.

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