Best of our wild blogs: 19 Aug 17

Night Walk At Pasir Ris Park (18 Aug 2017)
Beetles@SG BLOG

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Businessman convicted of importing rosewood worth $68m takes legal issue to apex court

Ng Huiwen Straits Times 18 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE - A Singaporean businessman who was acquitted twice before he was found guilty of importing rare Madagascan rosewood logs is back in court.

On Friday (Aug 18), Wong Wee Keong, 56, was able to file a "criminal reference" application at the Court of Appeal.

Wong is asking the apex court to rule on what conditions need to be met before a controlled plant or animal, for instance, is "in transit".

The application for a hearing on two questions of law was heard by the three-judge court comprising Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, and Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and Tay Yong Kwang.

The Chief Justice said permission should be given in this case "so that there is a clear pronouncement of what the applicable legal tests are".

In March 2014, 29,434 logs - weighing 3,235 tonnes and worth US$50 million (S$68.2 million) - were seized by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) from a ship berthed in Jurong Port. It was the "largest seizure of rosewood ever made", said a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Rosewood is a controlled species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, to which Singapore is a signatory.

Under the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act, rosewood cannot be imported without a permit from AVA.

Wong and his firm were first acquitted in 2015, and the case was dismissed in the middle of the trial. The judge ruled that the logs were not being imported but were in transit, as they were headed to Hong Kong.

The prosecution appealed but Wong and his firm were acquitted.

When the prosecution appealed a second time, the judge in March (2017) said under the law, a restricted species is considered to be in transit only if it is "brought into Singapore solely for the purpose of taking it out of Singapore".

He said there must be proof the species is certain to leave Singapore at a fixed date.

However, in this case, the logs were to leave Singapore on a date that was not confirmed. In fact, their departure date depended on Wong and his firm finding a buyer in Hong Kong.

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New tech tested at Sentosa can spot unattended objects, intruders at sea

Channel NewsAsia 18 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE: Hitachi Asia has completed its first tests for the urban safety and security solutions it is developing in Singapore, which involves technology that can detect intruders at sea as well as unattended items at a crowded station concourse.

The test, which was conducted at Sentosa island, achieved an accuracy rate of over 90 per cent, the company said in a news release on Friday (Aug 18).

Hitachi said that it applied its video analytics software to the existing infrastructure on Sentosa to detect intruders in the sea.

The same technique was also used to locate unattended objects in public through real-time monitoring and to alert relevant parties, for example by sending automatic alerts to command centres and security guards or to the public.

"This system minimises response time and the reduction in manual surveillance also increases productivity," Hitachi said.

"The data collected enables both analytics for investigation support, since a person's history can be traced, as well as business operation(s), given that human flow is tracked."

The tests are part of a project under the Safety & Security Industry Programme 2020, led by the Singapore Economic Development Board and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

The project aims to grow Singapore into ASEAN's leading incubator for safety and security businesses, and was created in response to a call for collaboration by the Safety and Security Industry Programme Office (SSIPO) to develop safety and security solutions for agencies such as the Singapore Police Force and Singapore Civil Defence Force.

"Our safety and security agencies are continuously seeking to make use of new technologies and innovation to keep up with the challenges and maintain our operational excellence," Ng Yeow Boon, the senior director of MHA's ops-tech group, said in the news release.

Kosuke Horiuchi, managing director of Hitachi Asia, said that the company believed its "cutting-edge technology and advanced IT system can further increase Singapore's security levels".

"We are very excited to collaborate with the Singapore Government to make the country a safer place to live in," he added.

Source: CNA/nc

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More than 100ha of land in Lim Chu Kang, Sungei Tengah to be set aside for landscape nurseries

Loh Chuan Junn Channel NewsAsia 19 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE: Plots of land spanning more than 100 hectares will be set aside for landscape nurseries use in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah, the National Parks Board (NParks) announced on Saturday (Aug 19).

For a start, about 40 hectares of land comprising more than 30 plots, will be progressively released for tender in tranches from November this year. They will be tendered on a mix of 1 hectare and 2 hectare plots.

NParks said around half of the 30 plots of land will be released in four tranches till end 2018. The land plots will be available in two forms of tenancy: A nine years model with renewal every three years, and a 10+10 year leases model for bigger land parcels.

Under this model, nursery operators pay an upfront amount of 10 years' land lease, with a renewal option for another decade after the first 10 years.

The land parcels will also come with basic infrastructure built up to the front gate, it added. This means that things like drainage systems and electrical connections will be available for nurseries to "quickly move in, kick-start operations, and defray upfront capital investments", NParks said.

This is also the first time that land has been allocated for landscape nurseries, as part of efforts to boost plant supply-chain security and to support Singapore's garden city vision.

"Currently, we don't have land specifically earmarked for nurseries. Our nurseries are now on land that had been tendered out for agriculture generally, and they have had to compete with other farming businesses," said Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee.

To qualify for the land tender, bidders must be on the Nursery Accreditation Scheme. NParks said it would conduct tender proposal workshops prior to the start of the tender period.

Source: CNA/rw

More than 100ha of land to be set aside for landscape nurseries in a first
Linette Lai Straits Times 19 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE - More than 100 hectares of land in northwest Singapore will be set aside for landscape nurseries, with the first plots open for tender starting November this year.

It is the first time that land has been specifically set aside for these businesses, said Second Minister for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee on Saturday (Aug 19) morning.

"Currently, we don't have land specifically earmarked for nurseries," Mr Lee said. "Our nurseries are now on land that had been tendered out for agriculture generally, and they have had to compete with other farming businesses."

He was speaking at the National Parks Board's (NParks) Landscape Industry Fair, held at HortPark.

The news comes two days after the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) announced that 12 plots of Lim Chu Kang farmland are being put up for tender.

The new land parcels will be located in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah, and will come with basic infrastructure in place so that nurseries can move in quickly.

For a start, about 40 hectares - comprising around 30 one and two-hectare plots - will be released. Half of these plots will be put up for tender between November and the end of next year.

The move is part of the Landscape Productivity Roadmap to develop the industry, which has been progressively rolled out since 2012.

The smaller plots will have a nine-year tenure period, with monthly payments and renewal every three years so that operators can avoid paying large sums upfront.

The larger plots will be leased out for 20 years, with businesses required to pay an upfront amount of 10 years' worth of land lease fees.

Tender proposals will be evaluated based on both price and quality.

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Malaysia: Foreign vessel collision causes oil spill in waters off Tompok Utara, DoE orders clean-up

Ahmad Fairuz Othman New Straits Times 18 Aug 17;

Two foreign-registered merchant vessels collided 32 nautical miles off Tompok Utara near Pengerang, Kota Tinggi last night, causing an oil spill. Pic by NSTP/ courtesy of Marine Department

JOHOR BARU: Two foreign-registered merchant vessels collided 32 nautical miles off Tompok Utara near Pengerang, Kota Tinggi last night, causing an oil spill.

Johor Health, Environment, Education and Information Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said there were no injuries involving crew members during the 10.30pm incident, which involved Panama-registered oil/chemical tanker Chemroad Mega and Marshall Islands-registered Sinica Graeca bulk carrier.

"The (Royal Malaysian Navy fast attack craft-missile's) vessel KD Pendekar received information on Chemroad Mega colliding with Sinica Graeca vessel on July 17 at 10.30pm.

"The position of the Chemroad Mega and Sinica Graeca were at 01 28.50 N, 104 30.30 E, 3.2 nautical miles northeast off Tompok Utara.

"Both vessels are now anchored at a location seven nautical miles southeast of Tompok Utara," said Ayub in a statement today.

He said crew on board Chemroad Mega and Sinica Graeca told authorities that there were no injury among crew members and the extent of damage has not been evaluated.

"Agents from both vessels arrived at the anchored location on Aug 18 to assess the damage on the vessel," said Ayub in a statement.

He said the Johor Department of Environment (DoE) has instructed owners of both vessels to post a total of RM5 million in bond pending completion of the oil spill clean-up works.

"The Johor DoE instructed the owners to post RM5 million in bonds to the government for both vessels.

"The two vessels will be detained until the bond is handed over and immediate action is taken for clean-up of the oil spill," said Ayub.

He said authorities were investigating the cause of the collision, adding that checks were being made on the extent of the oil spill, which was likely flowing northward to Pulau Tioman.

Oil spill off Johor after merchant tankers collide
BEN TAN Malay Mail 19 Aug 17;

The damage to the hull of the ‘Sinica Graeca’ bulk carrier which was reported to have collided with the ‘Chemroad Mega’ tanker off Johor’s eastern strait. — Picture courtesy of Johor Health, Environment, Education and Information Committee

KOTA TINGGI, Aug 19 — Two foreign-registered merchant tankers collided near Johor’s eastern straits, 3.2 nautical miles off Tompok Utara near Pengerang, Kota Tinggi on Thursday night, causing an oil spill.

The two vessels have been identified as a Panama-registered oil/chemical tanker Chemroad Mega and Marshall Islands-registered Sinica Graeca bulk carrier. There were no injuries or death reported.

Johor Health, Environment, Education and Information Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the Royal Malaysian Navy’s boat KD Pendekar received information of the collision about 10.30pm.

“The position of Chemroad Mega and Sinica Graeca were 3.2 nautical miles northeast off Tompok Utara.

“Both vessels are now anchored at a location seven nautical miles southeast of Tompok Utara,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Ayub said representatives from the two tankers were at the location yesterday to assess the damage.

He said the state Department of Environment (DoE) ordered both the owners to post RM5 million as bond, pending completion of the oil spill clean-up.

The maritime authorities have detained the two vessels until the clean-up is completed. It is investigating the cause of the collision, as well as the extent of the oil spill.

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Malaysia: Elephant relocated to a bigger forested area

Ahmad Fairuz Othman New Straits Times 18 Aug 17;

KOTA TINGGI: A seven-year-old female elephant was captured and relocated to a bigger forested area in a 10-day operation conducted by the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) yesterday.

Found on the fringes of the Mawai jungle, the elephant was coaxed by two other female elephants which were brought in from the Kuala Gandah elephant sanctuary in Pahang.

Johor Perhilitan director Jamalun Nasir Ibrahim said the female elephant was transported on a truck at about 9am with the help of a10-member team from Johor Perhilitan and the Kuala Gandah elephant sanctuary.

"The recent operation began on Aug 9. Operations are carried out every year as we capture and relocate elephants to better habitats. This operation led to the capture of a seven-year-old female elephant near Mawai.

"Operations are also carried out when there are complaints of elephant encroachments in human settlements," Jamalun told the New Straits Times.

He said the population of elephants in Johor currently stood between 140 to 150, and occurences of them entering human settlements were likely due to destruction at the elephants' natural habitat.

Jamalun urged residents in the area to refrain from taking any drastic action whenever they encountered the mammals and to contact the state Perhilitan to handle such cases.

A 33-year-old Indonesian plantation worker died in an incident where he was believed to have been trampled to death by elephants in Ladang Tunjuk Laut, Tanjung Sedili almost on two months ago.

Since that incident on June 21, there have other sightings of the mammals along the Kota Tinggi-Mersing trunk road.

There were another six encounters with the jumbos in nearby Kampung Lukut, Kota Tinggi.

Residents in Mawai also claimed that human conflicts with elephants were more frequent in the past three years.

Badrul Zaman Abu Samah, 51, said that while it used to be common to see herds of elephants once or twice a year in his village in Mawai, the encounters were getting more frequent now.

"When I was growing up in the area, herds of elephants will roam the village twice a year. It used to be an uncommon sight, but is now getting more common as we see elephants several times each month.

"Residents fear for their safety as the elephants destroyed banana trees, oil palms and other crops. Once, the mammals damaged a plantation manager's house till a metal beam was dented. It scared the manager's family," said Badrul Zaman who works with the Federal Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Felcra).

He urged the authorities to look into the matter, and ensure that the upcoming elephant sanctuary slated to be built in Panti, Kota Tinggi would be able to accommodate a large number of elephants that were native to the area.

Malaysian Nature Society vice chairman Vincent Chow said there was always a risk of elephants entering human settlements if humans continued to encroach into the animal's natural habitat.

He said Mawai and its surrounding areas were known as migratory routes for elephants, while the forests along Sungai Panti were places where the mammals obtained food and water.

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Turtle hatchlings sighted at East Coast Park: NParks

Channel NewsAsia 17 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE: Hawksbill turtle hatchlings that were trying to find their way to the sea at East Coast Park received a little help from National Parks Board (NParks) and members of the public.

The turtle hatchlings had been spotted on Wednesday evening by several park visitors, NParks said in a Facebook post on Thursday (Aug 17).

Bright street lights were distracting the baby turtles, which were trying to find their way to the sea, the agency said.

Working together with members of the public, NParks staff moved the hatchlings to a more suitable location. Video on NParks' Facebook page shows them helping to guide the baby turtles into the sea using the light from their mobile phones.

Said NParks: "We are encouraged by the community's efforts in helping these 32 young hatchlings start on their life journey!"

NParks urged the public to contact their helpline (1800-471-7300) and to keep their distance and "speak softly" when a turtle is sighted.

"Touching the turtle may scare or provoke it. Similarly, one should not handle the eggs as that might damage them," it said.

32 Hawksbill turtle hatchlings guided into sea at East Coast Park

Lydia Lam Straits Times 18 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE - A couple getting ready to leave East Coast Park on Wednesday (Aug 16) evening were surprised to see small moving creatures at their feet, which they later discovered were baby turtles.

A 29-year-old salesman, who gave his name only as Mr Chia, told The Straits Times on Thursday that he was at Bedok Jetty with his wife when they saw a tiny creature on the ground around 10.30pm.

"After a closer look, we realised it's a baby sea turtle," he said. "To our surprise and astonishment - because it's the first time we've spotted this sort of thing at East Coast Park - we actually found more and more of them. We figured they were a bit lost, because they kept circling."

Mr Chia said there were some joggers and cyclists there so he and his wife stood there to prevent them from getting run over.

They also called the National Parks Board's hotline, and an officer arrived about half an hour after.

About 10 people had gathered by then. Together with NParks staff, the group transported the 32 Hawksbill turtle hatchlings to a more suitable location, where they were released at about 1am.

"We are encouraged by the community's efforts in helping these 32 young hatchlings start on their life journey," said NParks in a Facebook post on Thursday night.

Dr Lena Chan, group director at the National Biodiversity Centre, told The Straits Times that the group consulted the Marine Turtle Working Group in releasing the hatchlings.

"We would also like to take this opportunity to remind members of the public to contact the NParks helpline (1800-471-7300), and to keep their distance and speak softly when a turtle is sighted," she said. "Touching the turtle may scare or provoke it. Similarly, one should not handle the eggs as that might damage them."

Hawksbill turtles, which are sea turtles with mottled shells, have been regularly sighted along the Singapore Strait, according to NParks' website.

They are found in the tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, and females have been spotted coming ashore at East Coast Park to lay eggs.

Hawksbill turtle hatchlings crossing a pedestrian path

Female turtles typically do this at night, laying up to 200 eggs at a time. The eggs hatch after about two months, and the hatchlings make their way instinctively to the sea.

NParks on its website gives the following guidelines when encountering a turtle:

- Call NParks at 1800-4717-300.

- Keep your distance from the turtle and the eggs. Touching the turtle may scare or provoke it. Handling the eggs may damage them, or introduce bacteria into the nest.

- Talk softly and stay out of sight. Do not shine lights at the turtle or use flash photography. Light and noise may scare the turtle, and cause it to leave without laying any eggs.

- Keep clear of tracks left by the turtle. Researchers use the tracks to identify the species of the turtle and to locate the nest.

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More spaces on mainland Singapore to be used for OBS activities

Loke Kok Fai Channel NewsAsia 17 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE: Students of Catholic High and Woodlands Ring Secondary tried their hand on Thursday (Aug 17) at paddling rafts in Punggol Reservoir, the first time that Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) is conducting adventure activities there.

It's part of the programme's expansion on mainland Singapore. OBS said it is looking to conduct more activities at Park Connector Networks (PCN) and water spaces in Punggol and Pasir Ris.

Together with the National Parks Board and national water agency PUB, OBS will organise cycling and kick-biking activities along the PCNs, as well as paddling activities such as rafting in areas like Punggol Reservoir.

Trekking and kayaking activities - currently held only out of OBS' main campus on Pulau Ubin - will also be explored.

This is to cater to the new Ministry of Education (MOE)-OBS Secondary 3 programme. The five-day, expedition-based, multi-school camp that kicked off in January is aimed at encouraging students to take on a more active lifestyle.

MOE had announced an expansion of the OBS programme in 2016, to promote the holistic development of students through outdoor education. To allow more students to benefit from OBS, a new campus on Coney Island, larger than the one on Pulau Ubin, is being built and will be completed in 2020.


Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu joined students on Thursday at the paddle before a subsequent kick-bike ride with members of the National Youth Council (NYC).

"The beauty about Singapore is that although we think that it is a very small country, with effective use of our water bodies, our reservoirs, our rivers, our park connectors, our beautiful parks – actually we can do a lot more,” Ms Fu said.

She added that creative use of equipment, the environment, and the missions and tasks assigned could also test the values of “resilience, teamwork, cooperation and courage” that the programme hopes to inculcate in students.

A total of 4,300 students from 22 schools have taken part in the MOE-OBS Secondary 3 programme since January. Of these, 180 students have participated in the programme’s mainland expansion.

Source: CNA/mz

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Malaysia: Free fish not due to tsunami, merely additional catch of the day distributed for free

Ahmad Fairuz Othman New Straits Times 17 Aug 17;

KOTA TINGGI: The sight of thousands of fish along Pantai Mansor, Tuan Seh in Tanjung Sedili on Tuesday has created quite a stir on social media.

It has also drawn just as many people who have turned up to ‘collect’ their share of the gifts from the sea.

Fishermen in the area said ikan gelama, ikan selayang and some small-sized ikan bawal and ikan senangin were hauled in and unloaded along the beach for all to take.

They said the fishes were caught with ‘pukat tarik’ nets.

According to the fishermen, villagers in Tanjung Sedili would head to the beach whenever they were told of the latest harvest. These small fishes were considered as additional catch to the fishermen and they will distribute it for free.

Many residents said it was common for a large number of small fishes to be found nearer to the shore, this time of the year.

Sedili Area Fishermen Association chairman Abdul Majid Abdul Rahman said this is not a case of fishes being washed ashore, unlike what is being claimed on social media.

He said fishermen in the area have previously hauled between two to 10 tonnes of fish whenever the weather condition is good and the season is right.

“Such things are a norm as fishermen would throw away big amount of small fishes on the beach for villagers to take for free.

“The rumour saying the fishes were washed ashore because of tsunami is untrue,” said Majid.

Keropok maker and fisherman Abd Rahman Abdullah, 54, said he and his wife, together with two of his friends, had opted to fish out in the open sea.

“In our first attempt, we hauled up 13 ikan gelama, puput and jemedi and in our second attempt; we caught 40 ikan gelama, prawns and other fishes.

“But my third attempt in laying the net led to a very bountiful catch. It was heavy and I waited until low tide and called some other fishermen to help pull the net to shore,” said Rahman.

He unloaded his catch on the beach and asked villagers to spread the word that the fish was free for all to take.

Sedili Fisheries Development Board Complex (LKIM) manager Kaismail Kadir said the viralled photo, which shows villagers squatting down collecting the free fish, has been verified by the board as they had gone down to personally speak to one of the woman in the photo as well as Rahman.

“The waters near Tanjung Sedili are teeming with these Grade C types of fishes, including ikan gelama and ikan duri.

“It was a bountiful harvest for one fisherman that day and he invited villagers to help themselves to it,” he said.

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Malaysia: No chance of haze over Games

The Star 18 Aug 17;

PETALING JAYA: Good news for participants and spectators at the 29th SEA Games – it’s going to be haze-free throughout the KL 2017 event, said the Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia).

While recent thunderstorms have brought heavy rains and floods in several states, the silver lining is that the downpours are dousing any chances of haze.

“With the SEA Games taking place, we were worried the haze might make an appearance but the recent wet weather, especially in the Klang Valley, has been good news,” said MetMalaysia director-general Alui Bahari.

Malaysia is currently experiencing the south-west monsoon – which is typically drier – but he said so far, there was no indication of a build-up of hot spots or forest fires in Malaysia or Indonesia due to the wet spell.

When asked about MetMalaysia’s forecasts on the downpours that had caught many off guard, Alui said there were two types of rain in the country.

“For rains brought by the monsoon, we provide two to three days’ advance warning,” he said.

However, for thunderstorms which occur when moist air near the ground becomes heated and rises to form cumulonimbus clouds that bring rain, Alui said these were harder to predict.

“It is harder to predict how intense it will get and we can at best only give two to three hours’ notice,” he said, adding that forecasters would know in advance where a thunderstorm was likely to hit.

“A three-hour warning for a thunderstorm is still okay but if you want a warning a day before or even earlier, it will be very difficult.

“In any country near the equator you will find that such a technology does not exist,” he said.

He said in most developed countries, the climate was temperate with four clearly defined seasons.

“The weather patterns in these countries form and hold for a longer time. In our country, where the climate is tropical, thunderstorms build up and last for a shorter period,” he said.

On whether MetMalaysia’s equipment could be upgraded to allow for further improvements in forecasting, Alui said those in its weather monitoring stations were all up to date.

However, there was an ongoing effort by MetMalaysia to widen and increase its weather radar coverage, he said.

There are various ways to keep up with the latest weather alerts from MetMalaysia, including following its official Facebook page (, downloading its app myCuaca or a third party app Rain Alarm, which uses radar coverage.

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Best of our wild blogs: 17 Aug 17

The Darker Side of Pulau Hantu
Hantu Blog

31 Aug: Singapore Eco Film Festival Opening Night
Green Drinks Singapore

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AVA, Sumitomo Chemical to start full-scale rooftop farming test cultivation

ANGELA TAN Business Times 17 Aug 17;

THE Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and Sumitomo Chemical will begin full-scale test cultivation of farm produce on the rooftop of AVA's research facility this month, with the aim of establishing sustainable urban farming by 2018.

The project, which aims to promote urban farming to enhance food supply resilience in land scarce Singapore, sees the AVA and Sumitomo Chemical using rooftops of buildings for urban farming, based on Japan's proprietary technology. Other participants of the project include Kaneko Seeds from Japan, and Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Sumitomo Chemical will look into further specifics for the project, including a produce distribution system to be established. It will also set up an operational model for sustainable urban farming by around 2018, which it can use to expand the urban farming business in Asia and globally.

Commenting on the project, Damian Chan, executive director of Energy & Chemicals, Singapore Economic Development Board, said: "Agriculture chemicals is a speciality chemicals end-market that Singapore identified to have good growth potential, and where our innovation capacity and strong inter-agency collaboration could provide the foundation for companies to test-bed new innovative solutions before scaling them to the region."

Mr Chan added that Sumitomo Chemical's foray into urban farming demonstrates how Singapore can innovate to develop unique solutions to solve global problems such as food security.

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