Food caterer among new players feeding Singapore’s urban farming boom

In a small room tucked away on the second floor of a precision engineering factory in Tuas, pots of kale and lettuce stacked in vertical racks grow under the glow of pink-purple lights. “You can control everything, even how much nutrients or water is being used for each plant,” said Mr. Nelson Lim, co-founder of I.F.F.I, which stands for Indoor Farm Factory Innovation.

Mr. Lim is also the chief executive of precision engineering firm TranZplus Engineering, which is the parent company of I.F.F.I. TranZplus’ two-story office in Tuas now houses both a manufacturing facility for semiconductor components and a farming showroom.

“A lot of people ask me: ‘Nelson, are you crazy? You’re in engineering, why suddenly do farming?’ Actually, the two are not unrelated. We can put our engineering skills to good use in indoor farming,” Mr. Lim said while demonstrating the farming racks that can be adjusted according to height and size.

Mr Lim said the decision to venture into indoor farming was driven by “strong business potential”, partly on the back of Singapore’s “30 by 30” goal to produce 30 percent of the country's nutritional needs locally by 2030.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated the potential, with global disruptions to the harvesting, shipping, and sale of food making it even more important for the country to have its own resources. Indoor farms can be the solution, he added.

Last September, I.F.F.I. became one of the nine urban farms to secure grants totaling S$39.4 million from the Singapore Food Agency.

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