Summary of High-tech farming and Alternative Food Networks

In the theme of high-tech farming as part of the Alternative Food Network system, I have learnt that:

  1. AFN is not necessarily less pollutive than commercial farming
  2. High-tech farming in indoor and urban conditions are expensive, although the energy consumed is at an efficient rate
  3. If Singapore wants to enhance its food security through more vigorous urban food production, Skygreen’s vertical green model is more apt than the LED lighted agriculture.
  4. LED lights should be powered by electricity produced by renewable and green energy so that it does not emit carbon like the animal farms and cause greenhouse effects.

In Retrospect: Singapore’s high-tech urban farms must not use LED light bulbs (2)

In today’s post, I am looking at the possibilities for Singapore to adopt the LED lighted urban agriculture. As a continuation from the previous post “In Retrospect: Singapore’s vertical farmings must not use LED light bulbs (1)”, I will argue that Singapore should not adopt this model of urban agriculture despite its benefits. This is because Singapore always claims itself to be “alternative-energy disadvantaged”.

Singapore imports almost all its energy needs, as not all renewable energy options are feasible in Singapore (Nccs.gov.sg, 2013) because:
  1. Hydroelectric power cannot be harnessed, as Singapore lacks a major river system
  2. Wind speeds are too low and we lack the land footprint for commercial wind turbines.
  3. Our prospects for geothermal energy are low.
  4. Our calm seas, which make us a good port, results in tidal ranges that are too low for commercial tidal power generation.
  5. Our small physical size (715.8 sq km), high population density and land scarcity limits our potential for sustainably-grown domestic biomass, and for the construction of solar-power farms.
As a result, our energy consumption and electricity production are by 2 main sources: Petroleum and Natural Gas.
As such, I do not advocate for Singapore to adopt the LED light Farm model, since the intensive use of artificial light (for mass production) cannot be truly environmentally friendly. The use of carbon sources like natural gas and petroleum to generate the electricity needed for the urban farms will cause carbon emission, and enhance the Greenhouse effect.
That’s all for today. I will round up and summarise my blog soon!.
Work Cited:
Nccs.gov.sg, (2013). National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) – Singapore’s Approach to Alternative Energy. [online] Available at: https://www.nccs.gov.sg/climate-change-and-singapore/national-circumstances/singapores-approach-alternative-energy [Accessed 8 Apr. 2015].

In Retrospect: Singapore’s high-tech urban farms must not use LED light bulbs (1)

Rounding up the 2 thread of posts on the “Light Fantastic” and “AFN in Singapore”, I wish to explore if LED light-bulb usage in the high-tech farms in temperate regions is applicable to Singapore’s context. This post is inspired by Gabriel’s post “Our Energy Futures II” on the Grid integration. We have learnt about this last semester in GE2230: Energy’s future.

Aforementioned in the “Light Fantastic”, LED lightbulbs are more efficient than the traditional fluorescent lightbulbs, and thus consuming less electricity. Indeed, seen in the diagram below, LED consumes the least electricity, compared to other lightings to produce the same level of brightness.

However, we want to ask ourselves, where does the electricity come from? If there are no carbon production at the point of producing the food crops, does that mean that there are no production and emission of carbon when consuming the energy needed to maintain the farms?

This is when I’ll like to draw reference to Gabriel’s post, on grid integration in the UK. Renewable and green energy is the hype after oil peaked, and that coal and natural gas will peak soon. Not to mention the environmental impacts of carbon fuels. The integration of renewable energy into the national grid to generate electricity to power the UK is the first step to reducing the carbon emission and thus greenhouse effect. This means a reduced reliance and consumption of carbon-powered electricity. Thus, so long the LED lights used in High-tech farms are powered via the electricity generated from (or solely) from renewable sources, the “Light Fantastc” then truly presents itself as an AFN that is environmentally equitable and friendly.

That’s all for today! Stay tuned!.


AFN in Singapore: Urban agriculture

In today’s post, I will like to discuss the AFN seen in the Singapore context, and discuss how it may cause less environmental pollution (in terms of fuel consumption) than the Skagit County case study.

Unlike the Skagit County whose farmers have to feed the residents of the bigger Seattle Metropolis, Singapore’s AFN farmers will only have to feed Singaporeans. This is because Singapore is a city-state. Any AFN within Singapore and eat local initiatives would have to be in the form of urban agriculture.

Introducing A-go-grow Vertical farming

In the case of Singapore, a fully urbanised city-state, locally grown produce accounts approximately 7% of the market share (Mnd.gov.sg, 2011). Singapore faces severe land scarcity and increasingly, there have been AFN initiatives within the homes and urban areas. Skygreen, is a commercial farm in Singapore that adopts vertical farming.

Vertical Farming “Skygreens”

Sky Greens’ patented vertical farming system consists of rotating tiers of growing troughs mounted on a A-shape aluminium frame. The frame can be as high as 9 meter tall with 38 tiers of growing troughs, which can accommodate the different growing media of soil or hydroponics. The troughs rotate around the aluminium frame to ensure that the plants receive uniform sunlight, irrigation and nutrients as they pass through different points in the structure. Unlike the “Light Fantastic” which uses pink LED light to boost the crops growth, SkyGreen claims that only natural light is employed. But of course, Singapore is located at the Equator, and the insolation and radiation we receive is more consistent (no seasonality) than the temperate countries using the LED light to power the crops’ growth.

Lower Energy and water Use

Rotation is powered by a unique patented hydraulic water-driven system which utilises the momentum of flowing water and gravity to rotate the troughs. Only 40W  electricity (= one light bulb) is needed to power one tower.Also, unlike the water-inefficient milk production on diary farms, the crops are irrigated and fertilised using a flooding method, thus there is no need for a sprinkler system. This eliminates electricity wastage, as well as water wastage due to run-offs. Only 0.5 litres of water is needed to rotate the 1.7 ton vertical structure. The water is contained in a enclosed underground reservoir system and is recycled and reused.

That’s all for Today!

Stay Tuned 😀

Work Cited:

Inhabitat.com, (2015). The World’s First Commercial Vertical Farm Opens in Singapore. [online] Available at: http://inhabitat.com/the-worlds-first-commercial-vertical-farm-opens-in-singapore/sky-greens-singapore-worlds-first-vertical-farm-2/ [Accessed 13 Mar. 2015].

Mnd.gov.sg, (2011). Urban Sustainability R&D Congress. [online] Available at: http://www.mnd.gov.sg/urbansustainability/2011/food.html [Accessed 13 Mar. 2015].


High-tech farming: The Light Fantastic (2)

As a continuation from the last post, using artificial light for indoor agriculture is not a new idea. Urban, indoor agriculture allows for more more efficient production, transport and consumption of the food produce.

First, the crops are grown in multiple tiers (layers). Water used to water the crops will flow from the upper layers, and will flow to the lower tiers, and be recycled continuously. Sensors can detect which nutrients are missing and provide them in small, accurate bursts. This makes the efficient use and application of water and fertilisers, minimising excessive use of energy. Also, LEDs are being used. They are far more efficient than the florescent lights, keeping electricity bills down. High efficiency generates lesser heat, so lights can be placed closer to the plants and crops can be planted more densely. Apparently, the wavelengths of the light can be fine-tuned so that crops like lettuce is crisper, or softer. The crops grow faster, and it is reckoned that LED in controlled, indoor environment may cut growing cycles by up to half compared with traditional farming.

Since the crops are produced in urban settings, these locally grown urban produce can travel shorter distances to reach their consumers.

I wonder if there is a geography, or a varying barrier-to-entry for different group of people in planting indoors with LED lights. Who can afford to engage in such high-tech farming? The cost of the LED lights (upon purchase) are higher than the traditional lighting, and definitely more costly than using the free natural lighting. This video  explains the pros and cons of using the different lighting system, and suggested that indoor planting can be available to many. While in the long run LED lights cost lesser due to their efficiency; at the point to purchase, its prices are high. This suggest that people with less purchasing power will have difficulty in adopting the indoor light farming model

Work cited:

The Economist, (2014). The light fantastic. [online] Available at: http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21602194-indoor-farming-may-be-taking-root-light-fantastic [Accessed 27 Mar. 2015].


High-tech farming: The Light Fantastic (1)

For this post, I am drawing on an article in the Economist titled: “High-tech farming; The light fantastic. Indoor farming may be taking root”.

According to the article, leafy crops can now be grown locally in urban settings, as technology is harnessed to grow crops 22/365 (22 hours a day, 365 days in a year). In this article, it raised the idea of abandoning the sun’s light for the artificial one, and this is not new or radical idea. Artificial light offers plenty of advantages: sheltered from the volatility of seasons or weather, and growing around the clock. But as Grace mentions in her blog post “Ecological Light Pollution #6: Damage to Trees”, night lights can affect the growth cycle of plants, making them grow more than necessary, and more than optimally.

From The Economist

But in this case, artificial and night light is more of a benefit than a problem. If crops can grow more, isn’t it better? Crops can grow faster, producing food more readily and efficiently! Of course, the 2 hour deficit (from an all-day long lighting) is necessary, for the plant’s equivalent of sleep.

Work cited: 

The Economist, (2014). The light fantastic. [online] Available at: http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21602194-indoor-farming-may-be-taking-root-light-fantastic [Accessed 27 Mar. 2015].