SINGAPORE – The Singapore Accreditation Council (SAC), is developing a new accreditation programme to certify farms in Singapore that meet the national guidelines of producing pesticide-free and sustainably-grown vegetables.
The new programme which Enterprise Singapore (ESG), a government agency championing for enterprise development, oversees together with the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), will ensure that independent certification bodies can competently assess and recognize such clean and green farms.
The guidelines to ensure produce from local vegetable farms are grown sustainably and free from pesticides, known as the “Singapore Standard (SS) 661: Specification for Clean and Green Urban Farms”, was launched earlier in March. It contains criteria that urban farms have to meet in terms of minimizing contaminants in the food production process, as well as sustainable practices on resource and waste management.
Developed by the Singapore Standards Council (SCC) and the Singapore Food Agency, the SS 661 comprises a set of best practices and farm management systems to ensure the production of clean and green farm produce.
A clean farm implies that the farm does not use chemical pesticides but instead taps on physical, natural and cultural controls to protect its produce from pests and pathogens. According to an Enterprise Singapore factsheet, physical controls include the use of ultraviolet lights and insect pheromones to trap pests, while cultural control methods refer to companion planting and creating a biodiverse habitat to attract natural enemies of plant pests
Uses seeds that are not treated or coated with chemical pesticides and stored under appropriate conditions to prevent contamination and deterioration
Crop management systems at such farms should also collect data from water, soil, fertilizers and cooling systems to check for and minimize exposure to chemical, physical and biological contaminants
A green farm on the other hand adopts management systems to optimize the use of water, energy and fertilizers in farming activities, while minimizing waste.
“When a local farm says that it has adopted the standard, you will know that the farm has measures in place throughout the growing process to minimize the vegetables’ exposure to pathogens and pest and that has removed the need for pesticides,” ESG’s director-general of quality and excellence Choy Sauw Kook said at a virtual press conference.
Ms. Choy informed that the accreditation programme that the SAC is developing will ensure that conformity assessment bodies are qualified to assess farms’ compliance with the clean and green standard hence build trust among consumers.
Mr. Allan Lim, founder of Comcrop, Singapore’s urban farming pioneer, said receiving such an accreditation will be very useful for local farms in terms of competing with imports and helping to ensure profitability. But while technology and sustainable farming practices are already under way at the home-grown urban farm, he still expects the new standard to be a challenge to implement.
“Despite the amount of technology and automation and energy efficiency that we have put in place, there is the part about training our (team’s) ability to adapt to the more stringent requirement, and that would take time as we are now already in operational mode,” he said.
In response, Ms. Choy said authorities recognize the challenge and will work closely with industry players.
“We will also come in to see how we can support the farms in terms of the training that is needed to help them put in place all these management systems, processes, best practices or even adopting certain technologies, (as well as) providing some grants to defray the costs,” she said.