Singapore's shrinking availability of agricultural land, preponderance of densely packed urban environments and heavy dependence on imports of both food and water have threatened the island's long-term stability. Hydroponics, the technology of soilless farming using only an aerated nutrient water solution to feed a plant's roots, is a perfect fit for Singapore Island's current mix of geographic, cultural and infrastructural circumstances.
According to the Country Studies website, Singapore's agricultural base is tiny. Urbanization that began after the city's founding in 1819 had, by 1988, reduced the proportion of land area used for all agricultural purposes to only about 3 percent of the total. Only about 2.5 percent of the total land area of Singapore remained forested by 1988.
Singapore's natural state is a tropical rain forest environment, surrounded on the coasts by mangrove swamps. The island's central portion contains three water reservoirs and catchment areas. Even with the high annual rainfall, however, the dense population and small size of the island means that a portion of the country's drinking water must be imported from Malaysia. Land reclamation projects have altered the landscape of a number of the surrounding coral reefs and islets, merging them into one large mass of land that increased the total land area of the island by 50 square kilometers (19.3 square miles) over the years.
Hydroponics techniques allow plants to grow without soil in either an indoor or outdoor setting. The plant's roots are either partially submerged or sprayed with a nutrient solution mixed with water. The roots are exposed to the air inside a hydroponic grow enclosure, so they get all the oxygen they need in a high-humidity environment. Meanwhile, the plant's leaves are exposed to the proper kind of lighting to promote photosynthesis, whether that light is supplied by the sun or by optimized artificial lighting. These techniques result in faster growth rates and higher crop yields compared to conventional farming techniques, as the plants receive optimum amounts of light, nutrients and oxygen all the time.
Singapore-based Aero-Green Technology Pte Ltd. has proposed the use of vertical aeroponics growing techniques to mount these grow systems on rooftops of buildings in Singapore's urban areas. Vertically oriented, high-density aeroponic crop production systems can produce crop yields as much as 20 times higher than conventional farming techniques, while at the same time saving about 95 percent of the water that would be used to grow an equivalent crop yield conventionally.
According to an August 10, 2009 article on the Things Asian website, Mah Bow Tan, Singapore's minister for national development, recently announced government plans to "allocate more land for intensive farming in a country better known for banking, shopping malls, electronics and pharmaceuticals. Soaring food prices in 2008 highlighted the need to find new ways of reducing Singapore's dependence on food imports." Mah said that a fund will be set up to help farmers expand.
According to the article (which cites information from the government), "The aim is to eventually raise local production of vegetables to 10 percent of local demand from five percent currently, eggs to 30 percent from 23 percent and fish to 15 percent from 4 percent."