Why is Singapore in an ideal position to help Southeast Asian farms flourish using agritech?
When you think of agriculture, Singapore probably doesn’t spring to mind. For starters, the city-state is 100% urban, imports 90% of its food supply, and brings up to 250 million gallons of water a day.
Hardly the makings of a global farming powerhouse.
Singapore is also a country of curious contradictions, so these facts won’t stop the city-state from attempting to become the powerhouse of Southeast Asia’s agricultural sector. We’re not talking about Singapore’s innovative skyscraper farms either.
It is working hard to become a regional agritech hub for Southeast Asia’s 71 million farms as they undergo something Singapore is quite familiar with — rapid digital transformation.
What Does Agritech Mean?
Agritech refers to using technology to help boost the profitability and efficiency of the agricultural sector. This includes using of technology to improve crop yields, animal husbandry, and soil management.
The Current Landscape of Southeast Asian Agriculture
As odd as it sounds, farming and agriculture in Southeast Asia need a digital overhaul.
While the region has some of the lushest and most fertile lands on the planet, the sector suffers from fragmentation and inefficiencies.
Southeast Asia’s smallholder farmers, who are the majority of the region’s agricultural workforce, are often affected by:
- Inadequate infrastructure
- Limited access to financing
- A lack of knowledge about best modern practices
As a result, agriculture’s average share of GDP in Southeast Asia contracted from 16% in 2000 to 12% in 2020.
The good news is that it looks like digitisation can reverse this trend as a ripe opportunity for Singaporean agritech startups to come in and help.
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How Singapore Can Use Agritech to Help Farms in Southeast Asia
Singapore believes two things:
- Agritech can help mitigate some of these challenges by empowering farmers with information and technology
- Singapore is in a unique position to provide these solutions
The first part of the plan is to provide venture capital (VC) to develop agricultural technology solutions.
Thankfully, agritech conveniently intersects the trends of interests in intellectual property (IP) ownership, and investing in business to business (B2B) platforms.
With over 100 VC firms in Singapore, agritech startups shouldn’t have a tough time getting funding for fertilisation.
The second part of Singapore’s agritech play is to make itself the home for corporate innovation labs and accelerators focused on agriculture in Southeast Asia.
Many agricultural firms already use Singapore as their headquarters and have begun to create their own innovation labs here in recent years. Singapore’s reputation as an agritech innovation hub will only grow with those VC partners mentioned earlier.
Lastly, backend technologies make the digital world go round and will be essential to Singapore’s agritech ambitions.
Things like weather forecasting, plant health modelling, and credit scoring algorithms are all set to play a significant role in making Singapore the go-to place for growing agritech in Southeast Asia.
The Singapore Government is also supportive, with Enterprise Singapore (ESG) partnering with Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore) to launch the Singapore Agri-Food Innovation Lab (SAIL). The lab aims to “accelerate innovation and reap the growing economic opportunities in the agri-food sector”.
Singapore’s agritech journey of growth is only just beginning, but with the right mix of VCs, startups, and technology, the sky’s the limit.
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Singapore is Ideally Located to Be an Agritech Hub
Beyond the infrastructure and funding, Singapore’s location alone makes it a no-brainer as Southeast Asia’s agritech hub.
It is situated in the middle of a region home to some of the most agriculturally productive lands on earth.
Singapore’s centrality also means that it is uniquely positioned to serve as a conduit for information and technology transfer between farms in Southeast Asia.
In other words, Singapore can be the region’s agritech brains, with the farms themselves serving as the brawn.
Singapore is politically stable, and its English-speaking population arguably makes it a more attractive destination for talent than other Southeast Asian countries.
Being the most liveable country in the world attracts international talent, which will be increasingly important as the agritech scene here matures.
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Singapore Has the Potential to Modernise the Agriculture Industry
Despite its hyper-urbanised landscape, Singapore has all the makings of a regional agritech hub.
The city-state could play a healthy role in helping to modernise Southeast Asia’s agriculture sector with the right mix of government support and private sector innovation.
- Agritech is important because of reasons like these:
- Helps farmers to be more efficient and productive
- Helps to protect the environment
- Helps to increase food security
- Agritech startups are companies that focus on developing technology-based solutions for the agriculture industry.
- Agritech is a rapidly growing industry in Singapore, with a current growth rate of 18%.