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tv   Asia Insight  PBS  November 19, 2014 6:30pm-7:01pm PST

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a bustling market in central singapore. there's a wide range of foods,
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including fresh produce. >> from usa. this is from holland. brussels sprouts. malaysia, australia, australia, hong kong. okay? malays malaysia. singapore. >> the republic of singapore is a city state at the southern tip of the malay peninsula. just 710 square kilometers in size. the population exceeds 5.4 million. 1% of the land is used for agriculture, which is why the country imports 90% of its food.
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the government and private sector are developing newtechni. this greenhouse stands seven meters tall. the environment inside is more like a factory. >> our production is a ten -- >> this is an herb farm. it is situated on the building rooftop in the center of the city. >> maybe it's time to change. change our society and change our angle. change our perception. >> in this episode of asia insight, we follow the progress of new agricultural breakthroughs to boost local production in the urban state of singapore.
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it's the most popular shopping boulevard in central singapore. work is underway here to revolutionize local agriculture. a short distance from the main road lies a rooftop farm created by a private sector company. in all, there are 12 cultivation units. water flows through tubes and is absorbed by the plants.
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can be ready for shipment in around three weeks. the water from the tanks is used because the ammonia contained in fish feces serves as a fertilizer. keeping down the overall weight of these units. it was developed by the farm's
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owner, owner, owner, allan lim. around ten years ago, he founded a company that produces bio diesel. this eco-friendly fuel is made from used cooking oil gathered from hotels and restaurants. >> i think in 2011, we realized that in singapore, we import a lot of food. and i think that there were many people we talked to that feels maybe it's time to change. change our society and change our angle. to see whether we can use marichalize t land and land not used by other people. >> allan hit upon the idea of
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using rooftops. he was able to borrow 550 meters of space and with the help of family and friends, he set to work building a cultivation system. he also promoted the farm on social media, attracting young people to help out as volunteers. in june of 2014, his herbs were ready for sale. he attends the herbs every day.
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>> a very good idea. it's good for us to know where the food comes from. >> come from those tree tops. >> alan teaches the volunteers about the importance of agriculture. >> what is an -- an orchard is a place to grow fruits, right? why orchard is called orchard is because it was most for thailand and singapore and what we are really doing here is to bring the orchard back to orchard road. okay? >> he was a student when he began volunteers in 2011. as he is good is mechanics, he is now responsible for systems maintenance.
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>> i would like for farming, but farming is kind of relates in -- very surprise d at there are so many, so interested in farming. >> he's very good. he was our volunteer for what -- >> three years. >> today, the staff sample a solid containing the herbs they have grown. >> very good. >> allan is currently negotiating for other properties in order to expand his business. >> in the past, farmers are
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older people and they use generation one technology, but now, you see around, all my volunteers, they're younger people, they want to go into farming and i think that will bring the change to singapore's agricultu agriculture. >> singapore, separated from malaysia in 1965. at the time, 20% of the country consisted of farmland and about 20,000 households were engaged in agriculture. as the country's economy started to grow in the 1970s, farmland was put to industrial and residential use. by the 1980s, farmers occupied 3% of the land. in an attempt to save the country's agricultural industry,
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they -- leasing it out to farmers. in 2009, a new fund for the mechanization of agriculture was introduced, providing subsidies to stimulate productivity. >> we recognize there's a need to help them move into a new age of farming because if we rely on transitional method, it's just -- >> one of six parks in the north of singapore. farm 85 covers 13 hectares. the land has been borrowed from the government on a 20-year lease. 60 employees work here, producing 20 different types of vegetables.
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the majority specialize in the cultivation of leafy vegetables. that's because they are easily damaged in transport, meaning there is higher demand for domestic produce. he took up farming in the 1980s, but moved to the parks in 1987 to a larger area of land.
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>> he built the roof in 2010 with the support of government funding and created gaps in the roof to encourage air flow. singapore is hot all year round. the ventilation reduces the temperature by around 3 degrees, creating an ideal environment for the vegetables. the gaps in each roof structure alternate. the direction of the wind changes with the seasons. this ensures that the greenhouse is always ventilated. it prevents root rot, helping to achieve a stable harvest.
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>> packing has been mechanized. it is increased volume from four tons to five tons. in september 2014, he received an unexpected notification from the government about his land contract.
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the notice comes from the singapore land authority. he has borrow eed land from the authority in two electilocation. his 20-year lease will not be renewed. around 60 other farmers also received similar notifications. the government decided to terminate the leases on around 150 hectors of land in order to facilitate new development. he will lose all of his land.
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the singapore government introduced a new plan announcing new land leases and minimum production targets. >> this is a good chance for them to introduce new technology. to move from the old if they want to, the funds available, they can check on this farm and apply for the new place. introduce the new technology. >> the government stresses the importance of agricultural
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production. >> it is supporting strategy to complimenting our key strategy on -- our local protection helps in terms of shop supplying, especially with -- serves as a buffer. it gives the people psychological comfort. >> the government has high hopes for another farm here that is making good use of new technology. sky greens was founded in 2010 between the government and private sector company. there are no fields, just buildings around ten meters high.
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leafy vegetables are being grown on a series of shelves. this is called vertical farming. the vegetables are grown in planters containing soil. the soil is made up of fertilizers including chicken droppings and its distribution can be monitored more closely including venlg tablgs with just the right amount of nutrients. when seedlings are transferred, they are placed at intervals
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accord i according to the plant type. each nine meter tower contains around 30 shelves. leafy vegetables are ready for harvest in around 30 days. these tower units are actually rotating. we can see this more clearly if we speed up the video. the shelves make one rotation every 16 hours. the speed of rotation can be adjusted to match the type of vegetables. it insures they receive the right amount of is sun light.
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the sun is strong and temperature high. adjustment of exposure time is important. most do this by attaching -- but the moving shelves free the farmers from this shore. exposed to direct sun light for about one hour when they are closest to the top. >> afternoon is very stressed. afternoon, tired. the hour is rotating. so, rotating, it's only an hour. >> attached to each of the towers is a black device.
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this is the motor that rotates the shelves. it's powered by water. outside the building is a tank for accumulating rainwater. ground water is also used year round and helpful during the dry season. it is pumped up and distributed to each tower. the pumped up water is allowed to fall. and the energy of the falling water rotates the shelves.
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monthly electricity bills are only about $2 a month. falling water is captured in a ta tank. the design is such that it provides the vegetables with the moisture while avoid iinging th need to manually water them. when the water in the tank exceeds a certain level, it is returned to a storage tank and the cycle continues. this is vertical farming system
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was developed by jack. that builds housing complexes. although the experience of farming, he always wanted to put his construction skills to good use in the agriculture industry. he produced his first prototype in 2009. to adjust the hours of direct sun light, the plant ers had to
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be moved manually. to boost the protection volume, jack increased the number of shelves and the height of the towers, but this presented problems. jack came up with the idea of rotating shelves. he approached the government with his proposal. >> s in 2010 with the help of
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government funding, jack set up a new company boar reing about three hectors of land to grow vertical farming. it was then that he constructed his rotating prototype. another two years were spent trying to reduce the cost of the shelves while reducing the idea m rowingation speed. jack made his first shipments to the market in 2012. sky greens has seven types of towers producing four types of vegetables. total production has improved to one ton per day. vegetables are harvested every
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morning and packed immediately on site. this means produce can be shipped while it's still fresh. the vegetables are distributed to singapore's largest supermarket chain. informed consumers how these vegetables have been grown. the retail price is about 10% more expensive than conventio l conventionally grown produce, but sales figures are healthy. >> so, this is from singapore. quite clean and fresh.
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so i trust it. >> the price be expensive. >> yes. it's okay because it's healthy. it's good. it's trustable. i don't mind. >> yes, i read about it. yes. i think it's a very interesting idea. we are interested in it. >> sky greens is now planning to triple the number of its -- vertical farming is attracting attention from overseas, receiving inquiries from saudi arabia and china.
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>> try even rice, so can grow. yes, we were try to using the concept, not just grow. can grow other thing. even is a animal, possible. can we d do a chicken farm? yes. why not? >> possible. >> the city states of singapore. the development of new farming technologies continues. as the nation strives to boost its agricultural output.
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glad to have you with us on this edition of "newsline." it's thursday, november 20th. i'm catherine kobayashi in toke tokyo. the ebola epidemic continues to spread. the number of confirmed or expected cases topped 15,000 in eight countries. that's with transmission still being intense and widespreadsierra leone. the w.h.o. says 15,105eo


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