Closing Speech at Phase 3 Final Session of Lim Chu Kang Master Plan Stakeholder Engagement
Closing speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister of Sustainability and the Environment, at the final session of the Lim Chu Kang Master Plan Stakeholder Engagement on 30 October 2021
Thank you very much. I must say that this has been one of the most fruitful engagement sessions I’ve ever attended and it has given me many good ideas. The views that have been presented showed that we have achieved a lot in this process. As some of you have rightly said, whether you are doing economics, experience or engagement or environment, we can see the convergence of different ideas and elements.
We have a very diverse group of stakeholders here. More than 40 of you come from different backgrounds and to have you spend time in this session and outside the session, and arriving at what we have today, I must say that it has been a very successful and fruitful journey. From the very first session of coming together to where we are today, I have witnessed a lot of considerations. It has given us policy makers and regulators many good pieces of advice and food for thought.
On behalf of MOS Desmond Tan, I would like to thank all of you, and the team from the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) for giving your precious time during this process. We have learnt so many things from you. And also, thanks to the team at ThinkPlace for guiding us through this process.
Themes from the LCKMP discussions
There are many recurring themes that have surfaced during this entire process. Many of you have talked about the importance of heritage, environmental sustainability, and commercial viability – about ways to improve product and processes; and also thoughtful views on security. For example, how can we ensure security of our feed stock, or our seeds. There are certain values that have been quite consistent, and I would like to summarise and share that with you.
First, security. This LCKMP came from a need to secure local food supply in a world of global warming. Going into the future, how can we ensure the security of our food supply? Some of you have painted a very exciting future for the food industry in Singapore. Not just in the area of production per se, but technology and translational R&D. That is really visionary, because beyond food security we are looking at economic security as well. From this process of coming together, we can give our future generations much more economic opportunities than just food production.
In the food production system itself – the data analytics that we could do, whether it is comparing different types of food production or different environmental solutions; the catalytic kind of innovations that we can do; the circular economy and agroecology; what can we do to the environment; and how can we do better at carbon sequestration – having these ideas come together could spawn many more interesting downstream products and services, and even knowledge generation. If we can set things right, we can start by doing the data capturing – it gives us a lot more transparency, allowing us to do better comparisons and formulation of the future. I think we owe it to ourselves and the future generations to do that for LCK. It is a good time to set some of this infrastructure so that we can do things better. Security is an important part of it.
Second, sustainability. It is not just about environmental sustainability, but also about commercial sustainability. How can we do that, and also have sandboxes which could go beyond regulatory. Finding new ways to manage our waste for example, that allows us to improve environmental and commercial sustainability.
Third, diversity. It is not just about diversity of views, but also diversity of stakeholders, even in the production side of things. The farmers have different diverse aspirations. We have different considerations for horticulture stakeholders, or even stakeholders that are producing not just food, but products for medicinal purposes such as herbs. There is diversity in technology, and we recognise that there are different players out there. Some employ advanced technology and are capital-intensive. There are also others who have different objectives, for example startups in solar energy. These are all diverse needs that I think LCK should try to provide for as much as we can.
There is also community. Community here is more than just the potential buyers/consumers, but also the science community, the learning community, the investment community. Many of you have said that Singapore can be a shining example for the region and the world. I like this idea about a wide community having a place in LCK to learn, observe, experiment and invest in a diverse array of technology and products. This is something we must consider as we design LCK.
Finally, identity. Some of you have put production at the centre. But I think the experience group has told us that we should start by putting identity and culture right at the start of everything. As I listen to the presentation about how we should collaborate with one another, for example amongst universities, stakeholders, institutes, producers, farmers and also downstream to retailers, distributers, I feel that we can only do so if there is a common set of values of collaboration.
This idea about a collaborative LCK, whether you are a seed producer, hydroponics or aquaponics farmer, requires a sharing mindset. It is about knowledge accumulation and putting out your data for comparison. This value must be the center of this community, it is an identity that we must have. It is about coming together to develop markets, whether it is with consumer, retailer, or supermarkets. I like the idea about us coming together and committing to a purpose. It is about us being socially and environmentally responsible, and therefore do not require a very long and comprehensive set of regulations to dictate what we must do. There is a certain sense that we must do the right thing for the environment, such as treating our water before discharging it into the river system, and protecting Sungei Buloh that is just right at the northern part of us. If we have this common set of values, then it makes for a very strong identity. People will know that when you are in LCK, there are certain standards that are not just dictated by the government, but by the stakeholders themselves. This journey has helped us to do a bit of that, it has set a certain mindset about sharing and what we expect from each other when we operate from LCK.
Ideas to follow-up on
It has been most fruitful to go through this exercise with all of you. There are many pieces that will continue this discussion. For example, the first group (Economics group) discussed what this mix-used business hub would do, what would the production and R&D be like, how can we make these pieces come together. You have also given us many good ideas on how we should develop this sector better. We would like to continue working with you to develop these ideas. For example, how can we position ourselves as a knowledge hub for seeds under local growing conditions.
The economics group talked about product and process innovation, building greater resilience and cost efficiency. The proof-of-concept on shared services ties in very well with catalytic environmental services, which the environment group has proposed. So, we can look at enterprises that will develop circular solutions, for example.
Both the experience and engagement groups suggested developing a common placemaking modality. The government could provide a regulatory framework that allows newcomers into this space. It could also be a “plug and play” regulatory framework to allow quick access and entry to the business. We will work with you to develop these ideas further.
I’m particularly encouraged by the general consensus that we need to put our eye on cooperation rather than competition because we have a common objective. If we can share our experiences with technology, we can do better and much faster, and we can help each other move up the learning curve.
I like the environment group’s proposal of harnessing data for better transparency and accountability. Therein lies a need for us to have that common understanding. It is one thing for the government to have infrastructure. We also need to have data. If you are a tenant or stakeholder in LCK, you must agree on some extent of data sharing. If we are too protective of data, then it will not be successful. That is an area that we need to have greater conversations in, but we are in the right direction.
I would like to conclude by saying that this LCKMP is as some of you have said, like growing green beans. We are laying the seeds for LCK, and LCK can be many things to many people. But we have a vision that LCK would provide opportunities for food businesses, strengthen food security for future generations, and create economic opportunities for young people who are interested in this field. There are many areas where we can take a living lab approach, whether in waste management, circularity, production, innovation, feedstock innovation, nutrient innovation, process innovation, and energy and water efficiency. These would require research that could go on for a long time. I would like to see LCK become that place where people would come here to not just produce for the next twenty years, but to produce better and more sustainably, and create good jobs for our people for the next twenty to thirty years.
I have always been excited about LCK, but this session has given me so many more reasons for optimism. I hope we can continue with these conversations. My Ministry and SFA will identify some of these workstreams and work with you, both industry players and stakeholders, to develop them further. We hope that this would be a place where we plant the seeds today, with our feet planted firmly on the ground, touching our history and heritage, being close to the soil, and remember how important it is to be responsible to our neighbours, including Sungei Buloh, the nature reserve, and the wildlife. It gives us motivation for the present, and the confidence for the future. Because we know that we are guided by the past; how we have weathered through so many changes and still flourish, and see so many of our players doing well today.
It gives us much hope that the future ahead of us will be bright. It is really growing a green dot. In fact, I would propose “growing a green dot” to be our tagline. We are in the business of growing, we’re in farming, and we want this green dot to be bright and shining green, beyond Singapore. It is growing a beacon, and this beacon is LCK. LCK will be a beacon for us in so many ways, be it in growing environmentally sustainability, waste management, and balancing the ecosystem of our nature world.
Thank you for your efforts. The conversations will not stop here. It may take on a different form and we may go into different modalities. For example, Alliance For Action can take up some of these near term discussions. As we develop LCK, I’m sure we’ll have conversations further. Thank you for your passion for Singapore, for agri-tech, our nature and environment.