ComCrop founder Allan Lim not only plays a part in strengthening Singapore's food resilience, he volunteers to continue serving NS to defend the nation.
When the global food supply chain is disrupted, where can Singapore turn to for food? Mr Allan Lim is hoping that the answer can lie within the country herself.
He started ComCrop – Singapore's first and only commercial urban rooftop farm – in 2011, with the hopes of building social integration.
Today, the farm produces about 300 tonnes of vegetables a year and is one of the nation's "defences" in food security.
"The farm goes to supporting our food supply chain and developing our resilience. We would be the first response to any food crisis," explained Mr Lim.
The 50-year-old Operationally Ready National Serviceman (NSman) plays dual roles in defence. As the Principal Staff Officer of an Armour NS unit, Mr Lim assists in planning operations in the battlefield.
The 3rd Warrant Officer continues to volunteer in that appointment, since reaching his statutory age 10 years ago.
For his dedication and service, he was awarded the SAF NSmen of the Year Award last year.
ComCrop began as a humble community farm in Bukit Panjang. Mr Lim self-funded the project with a friend to encourage social interaction among residents.
"2011 was a time when there was dissatisfaction and tugs at our social fabric. So, I thought, what can we do to bring people together? Why not bring people back to farming?" he explained.
Gradually, the project grew from community farming to a company focused on food production.
In 2020, as food disruptions hit due to COVID-19, ComCrop ramped up its efforts and expanded its greenhouses on its rooftop farm atop an industrial building in Woodlands.
Now, it grows leafy greens chye sim (a type of cabbage) and lettuce, along fresh herbs like rosemary, basil and mint, which can be found in local supermarkets like NTUC Fairprice Finest.
The company is also committed to feeding the community. They recently gave out over 1,000 packets of vegetables at grassroot events at Clementi and Yuhua, and have been regularly contributing to non-profit organisation Food Rescue Sengkang.
"Whenever we have excess or whenever there's a request, we can always find something to give. I think this is great and it's something our staff believe in," said Mr Lim.
Dedicated to defence
Mr Lim served his full-time national service as a specialist instructor training officers, warrant officers and specialists.
When he returned for his In-Camp Training (ICT), he was deployed as part of the pioneer batch of the Armour NSmen Group. With experience in air-land operations, he volunteered to develop the air plans for his unit and now continues to serve as its Principal Staff Officer.
"Our unit values ability more than rank, and there were others after me who also continued to serve because the culture is good. So, I was happy to continue volunteering," said Mr Lim.
In 2016, he was involved in the National Day Parade as part of the community engagement committee. Mr Lim also served in the Committee to Strengthen NS from 2014 to 2015, which gave recommendations such as allowing more flexibility for NSmen to improve their fitness and clear the Individual Physical Proficiency Test.
His most memorable NS experience, however, was his first ICT at Exercise Wallaby 2007, held in Australia.
"We were huddling at night outside our vehicle because the temperature was minus-something in the cold Australian dessert," he recalled of the night mission.
"The vast and challenging operating theatre overseas, developing plans and pushing them forward, seeing how everything came together…. These are experiences that can't be replicated."