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SINGAPORE - Imagine a future where all of Singapore’s vegetables are grown in a completely controlled environment, and where every stage of a plant's growth can be calibrated - from its soil composition to the amount of air and light it gets.

Such farm factories are fast becoming a reality indoors, located in warehouses and industrial buildings.

Hothousing them in this way allows for a faster and smarter way of growing greens, thanks to agrotechnology - such as the use of artificial LED light, computer-controlled watering and fertilising, and genome editing of crops. At the same time, such vertical farms have a smaller physical and energy footprint.

There has been rising interest around the world in indoor farms, said Associate Professor Sanjay Swarup from the Department of Biological Science at the National University of Singapore. "Not only (are we seeing) large-scale production which is under controlled conditions, but it is also now comparable to what people can get from outdoor cultivation."

Currently, there are around 200 food farms in Singapore producing fish, eggs and vegetables - 15 of which are indoor farms.

Read more: The future of local farming: Balancing technology and nature

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The public sector has unveiled an action plan to conserve resources and embark on green initiatives, and hopes it will inspire all Singaporeans to work towards greater environmental sustainability. The inaugural Public Sector Sustainability Plan 2017-2020 (PSSP) was launched by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in Charge of the Public Service, Teo Chee Hean, at the opening ceremony of the Singapore Sustainability Academy 1 on World Environment Day.

Read more: Singapore launches sustainability plan to chart green course for public sector

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At this week’s Ecosperity 2017 conference, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Mr Teo Chee Hean shared how Singapore has balanced economic, social, and environmental priorities to achieve sustainable development. Below is an excerpt of his speech.

Teo Chee Hean, Singapore's deputy prime minister and coordinating minister for natural security, shares Singapore's sustainable development story at the Ecosperity 2017 conference, organised by Temasek. Image: Temasek

 

Since the 1970s, economic development has helped to lift billions of people out of poverty. Social indices of human development such as healthcare and education have improved significantly.

But this progress is not even, and important challenges remain. Social inequality, education and work opportunities for women, and youth unemployment are still areas of concern for many countries.

Rising populism and protectionism in several advanced economies, technological disruptions, and new transnational security and pandemic threats add more complexity and uncertainty to health, safety, and development.

Our environment is also under stress. Since 1972, the world population has grown from 3.8 billion to 7.3 billion in 2015, and is expected to grow to 9.7 billion by 2050. More than 54 per cent of the global population already lives in urban areas.

Access to clean air, clean water, power, and sanitation are challenges in many countries. Low-lying coastal communities such as Singapore are also more vulnerable to rising sea levels due to climate change.

Individuals, companies, countries, and the global community will need to work together to develop solutions for sustainable development.

Read more: The four pillars of Singapore’s sustainable development success

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