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Speech by Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, at National Junior College 50th College Day and Opening of Agri-tech Research Facility, on 4 May 2019

Mr Ang Pow Chew, Principal, National Junior College,

Distinguished guests and partners,

Fellow NJCians,


Good morning everyone. It is my pleasure to be here with you on this joyous occasion of our 50th College Day.

Service with Honour

2  National Junior College (NJC) was established in 1969, shortly after Singapore’s independence. From past to present, NJC’s community of leaders, teachers and alumni has consistently attained academic excellence, success in many fields and, most importantly, contributed to the well-being of Singapore. Today, all of us can celebrate NJC’s Golden Jubilee with pride, as we reflect on our achievements over the years.

3 Service with honour – NJC’s motto – has guided me since 1980, when I joined the college. I have fond memories of being in the NJC Band, and I am so happy that I met Mr Ho Hwee Long, who is still conducting the band today. It was in the NJC Band that I learnt about leadership. As Quartermaster, I had to check the instruments and equipment to ensure that they were in tip-top condition for my fellow band members as we prepared for concerts and competitions. When band members leave the event venue, it is also the Quartermaster who makes sure to clean up after them, putting the tables and trash away so that the facilities are ready for the next group of students. I suppose that is  why I am now the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources. I served the Quartermaster role to the best of my ability, and with great pride. Today I continue to do the same, but in Government, and for our people. What we were trained to do in school, we do it even more in our real life. To our current batch of NJCians, I hope that this motto will serve you well in life, just as it has served your seniors before you.

4 To fulfil her mission, NJC provides comprehensive and varied programmes to develop her students holistically. NJC’s new Agri-Tech Research Facility, which opens today, is the latest initiative that empowers students and teachers with knowledge and skills to contribute towards national development.

Singapore’s Food Story

5 The launch of the Agri-Tech Research Facility is timely. For the longest time, Singapore has thought that we can rely on diversifying our food supplies around the world. Today, we import 90 per cent of our food. We now see that there are new challenges which we need to address, to avoid dire consequences. Climate change is a challenge we have to think about. By the end of this century, Singapore will face higher temperatures, as much as 4 degrees Celsius higher than current levels. Sea levels will rise by about 1 metre. I may not experience this in my lifetime but you certainly will. We have to prepare for it now. Relying solely on diversifying our food supplies will not work anymore. We have to start thinking about how to grow food within Singapore, in an environment which is resilient to changing weather patterns.

6  To further build up Singapore’s food security, we have an ambitious plan to produce 30 per cent of our nutritional needs locally by 2030. We term this our “30-by-30” goal. This is part of our strategy to grow Three Food Baskets by: 1) Diversifying import sources; 2) Growing local; and 3) Growing overseas.

7    Growing more locally will require significant amounts of water, energy and land. Like other sectors in Singapore, the agri-food sector must develop in a sustainable manner. Some of our farms are already employing circular economy principles. Indoor farm Sustenir is using carbon dioxide, a by-product from the petrochemical industry, to enhance vegetable yields. N&N, which owns an egg-laying farm, carries out biodigestion using poultry waste to produce energy.

8     As we grow more food, we also produce more waste. We have to think right from the start about how we manage the waste. We must do more to find synergies across different sectors such as food, water, energy and waste. s. I went to the Netherlands and saw how they are working hard to produce food with as little energy as possible. They do not worry about water because they have it in abundance. I also went to the Middle East, where they are trying to grow food with as little water as possible — they have a lot of energy. In Singapore, we have to produce food with as little water and energy as possible, and to add to the challenge, with as little land as possible. We can do it, and I hope you will be part of the solution. Our future economy will be powered by an ambitious R&D programme. To solve the complex challenges facing us, we have to invest in building capacity and skills, to help us plan, design, and produce solutions that will not just be useful to us, but also for export The Government will invest almost $400 million under RIE 2020 on research and innovation in water, circular economy, climate change and food. These significant investments will help us to explore greater possibilities, , while achieving zero waste in the process. We do not want to just produce by taking, making, using, and throwing; we want to take, make, use, and put resources back into our ecosystems, just like what we did for our water. In the process, we will produce good jobs for all of you in future, while growing our local enterprises.

NJC’s Agri-Tech Research Facility

9    I am glad that NJC is contributing in this area. Your Agri-Tech Research Facility is the first of its kind in a Junior College. Supported by the Singapore Food Agency and food technology start-up Life3 Biotech, NJC’s facility will develop agri-tech solutions to overcome challenges of land, energy, and water constraints, while maximising food production and improving food quality.

10  As we work on transforming our agri-food industry, we need a new generation of local talent with the right skills to grow and support our agri-food ecosystem.  Our future farms will be different from the traditional farms that we are familiar with today – with backbreaking hours under the sun, and subject to the vagaries of weather. Some of our farms are already adopting high-tech solutions to increase their yields exponentially while maintaining the high quality of their produce. Rather than engaging in labour-intensive outdoor activities, new-age farmers will work in state-of-the art climate-controlled facilities, operating computerised control systems.

11 NJC’s new Agri-Tech Research Facility will allow our younger generation to have a feel of urban agriculture and new technologies. You will have the opportunity to create and innovate solutions for sustainable food production. I hope you will take advantage of the learning opportunities offered by the new facility. At the same time, please do not forget to give back to the community, because this is how we can become a better society. I am glad that net proceeds from the facility’s harvested crops will go towards under-privileged youth.

2019 Year Towards Zero Waste

12  Beyond producing food, it is also important to not waste food. We waste an average of two bowls of food per person per day, but only recycle 17 per cent of the total food waste generated. This is one of the reasons why we designated this year our Year Towards Zero Waste. We want to encourage Singaporeans to reduce, reuse and recycle right, and make Singapore a Zero Waste Nation. You can play a part in reducing food waste by ordering only what you can finish, asking for less rice or noodles if you are not going to finish them, and saying ‘no’ to side dishes that you won’t eat. We will be publishing our inaugural Zero Waste Masterplan later this year to detail our upcoming policies and plans to move Singapore towards zero waste. I encourage you to go to our website towardszerowaste.sg to find out more.

Conclusion

13  In closing, let me thank the principals, teachers and staff of NJC, past and present. They have put in 50 years of hard work to nurture students and grow the college from strength to strength. We could not be here today to celebrate NJC’s Golden Jubilee without your dedication. To fellow NJCians, remember and continue to uphold the school spirit and serve with honour, and strive for greater heights.

14  Thank you and have a great future.

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