SINGAPORE (Nov 12): On an empty plot of land within the compound of National Junior College, Ricky Lin is preparing to build greenhouses to plant chickpeas. The task is far from easy – chickpeas, commonly used as an alternative to meat, thrive in a warm and dry climate, not the hot and humid tropics. But Lin, who founded the meat alternative start-up Life3 Biotech, is confident of making the crop work here, using a combination of sensors and data to control the growing conditions.

Life3 Biotech has recently teamed up with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and National Junior College to work on this project for five years. They are building indoor farms and greenhouses to grow “more calorie-dense food” such as chickpeas as part of the effort to bolster Singapore’s urban crop production. Called Project Cube/Roots, the agriculture research facility will test out new agri-tech solutions to raise crop yield and quality.

The team expects to see its first crop in January. Once successful, the project could take on other crops, such as other legumes, mushrooms, peas and eggplant. “Singapore is a highly stressful environment for the farming community, because you have to produce [aggressively] or you cannot break even,” Lin says. “If this [project] takes off, we hope to work with local farmers to intensify local production with crops that we can store [against food shortage or natural disaster] amid the change in climate conditions today.”

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