In California, I have the opportunity to meet with farmers almost everyday, and it’s a point of pride that they are widely admired for their innovation and support of local communities. What was inspiring about my trip to Singapore, a nation with less than two percent of land dedicated to farming, is that the “California spirit” of farming is strongly present here.
Mr. Lee Van Voon, a machinist turned agriculturalist, has within four short years transformed a traditional fish farming operation to a pilot project that may reshape the aquaculture industry and provide opportunities to develop fish farming in urban settings. Mr. Lee, in partnership with a university, has created Fish in Motion, featuring small compact cubes that can be stacked and are water/energy efficient with a small environmental footprint. Mr. Lee is using natural herbal products to maintain clean water and healthy fish, which will help him meet his goal of recycling the water for vegetable farming. Mr. Lee is motivated by the need for Singapore to grow its own food in an environmental and sustainable way – much like California’s local food producers.
What makes meeting Mr. Lee so timely is that I have a had a couple inquires from people in Los Angeles and other cities about potential of urban aquaculture. Connecting Mr. Lee, who shares the passion and commitment so deeply found in California agriculture, with our urban developers and farmers may be way to benefit both of our communities.
Another individual I met, Mrs. Ivy Sing-Lim, who calls her farm Bollywood Veggies, classifies herself as a “gentlewarrior farmer” and is an entrepreneur who cares deeply about her community. Ivy brought together approximately 200 small farms that working with the government, have developed a farm tour that connects Singaporeans to farming and agriculture. But what is interesting about Ivy is that she is not just passionate about local and organic produce – but the positive role agriculture can play in providing education, combating hunger, and in supporting better nutrition in Southeast Asia and worldwide.
As I continue my travels as part of a trade delegation in Asia, it is clear that the connections California has with places like Singapore are not limited to trade. The California Spirit is something we are honored to share with our partners in the east.