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Singapore’s high-tech farms reach for self-sufficiency

Singapore would at first seem an unlikely candidate for the title of Breadbasket of the World. Despite a population density of 8,276.58 people per sq. km, the third most-crowded country in the world, its focus, however impossible it might seem, is food self-sufficiency. The spotlight alit on the island republic in the past week when it was reported that Singapore had become the first country to grant regulatory approval for the sale of a Finnish product called Solein, which could be described as one of the most revolutionary food products ever produced. It can be manufactured out of thin air.

By extracting carbon dioxide from the air and combining it with water, nutrients, and vitamins and fermenting it naturally via solar energy, Finnish food scientists have produced a flour-like substance that is odorless, tastelessand nutritious and can be combined with almost anything – and seemingly doesn't need massive amounts of power to produce it. It can be used as a building block for a wide range of products including alternative meat and dairy to cereal and bakery to entire meal replacements.

But in addition to Solein itself, the story of Singapore's innovation in food sufficiency lies not in sprawling fields such as those found in the United States or in the terraced rice paddies characteristic of China and Southeast Asia, but inside skyscrapers, where some of the world's most innovative agricultural technology, much of it borrowed from abroad, and experimentation can work its wonders while impervious to climate change.

Local food production is essential to any nation, but it is much more the case with Singapore, surrounded by nations whom it has traditionally regarded with suspicion, and from whom it imports substantial amounts of food. Almost since independence, the island republic has famously maintained a "poisoned shrimp" military defense designed to kill any nearby nation – Indonesia or Malaysia – tempted to swallow it, with more combat aircraft than Malaysia and Indonesia combined. Its aim is to feed itself as much as possible "in the event that overseas food supplies become unstable," according to the Singapore Food Agency's website. It "pays to have a level of self-sufficiency to tide us over the shortage."

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