Opening Remarks by Minister Desmond Lee at the Launch of Digitalisation Plans for the Landscape Sector

Jan 11, 2021

A very good morning to our landscape partners and our students.

I am glad to join you this morning. Today, allow me to cover 3 areas in my opening remarks.

First, I will share with you our plans to transform the landscape sector through digital technology. These are very exciting plans that have been in the works for some time. Second, I will talk about the Resident Gardener scheme; and finally, we will launch together a new book on gardening.

Our gardening story started in the early years of our nationhood. Our founding Prime Minister, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, envisioned Singapore as a Garden City. From a Garden City, we pushed on towards a City in a Garden – not just a change in nomenclature, but in terms of content, richness, and the intensity of greenery that we see around us.

Today, we are recognised as one of the world’s greenest cities. This is due to the foresight and careful planning of our pioneers, and the hard work of generations of gardeners and conservationists.

Now, we want to push even further and transform Singapore into a City in Nature. For example, our new and redeveloped parks will be more naturally designed, nature will be infused into our urban areas and urban spaces. One million more trees will be planted across our island over the next ten years, and more nature parks will be dedicated for nature-based recreation such as hiking and birdwatching, and to protect our nature reserves.

All these efforts, taken together, will help mitigate the negative effects of urbanisation and climate change, and provide Singaporeans with a better living environment.

Let me begin with our plans to digitalise the landscape sector. Our landscape sector is vital in our greening journey. That is why we launched a 10-year Landscape Sector Transformation Plan (LSTP) in 2019, to digitalise, mechanise and professionalise our sector. Since the launch, we have worked with stakeholders in the landscape industry and our Institutes of Higher Learning to push these efforts forward. 

For example, our companies have tapped on NParks’ Landscape Productivity Grant (LPG) to purchase equipment to improve the productivity of landscape maintenance works. NParks has also worked with ITE to revise its landscaping course curriculum so that students pick up a much wider range of skills. We’ve also entrusted students to run our parks, so they can get a first-hand experience in landscape design, horticulture, and arboriculture. We started with Bedok Town Park.

In this next phase, we will work with stakeholders on new initiatives as part of the Landscape Sector Transformation Plan, such as the digitalisation plans that we are announcing today.

We want to help our landscape companies move up the value chain to engage in higher-value landscape management work. We hope you will do this by adopting technology and upskilling our workforce.

Over the next year, NParks will pilot various digital technologies to manage greenery and parks right here in the Ang Mo Kio-Bishan area. We hope that this will improve productivity and reduce the need for manual labour.

One example is the Remote Tree Measurement System (RTMS). This system uses Light Detection and Ranging scans and machine learning to automatically map the locations of individual trees and extract tree measurement. This data is then automatically uploaded into our national Tree Registry System, which allows NParks to efficiently obtain an overview of the trees in the area. The RTMS will reduce the need for landscape workers to undertake laborious fieldwork to inspect trees and  manually update tree records.

Other technologies we will pilot include improved tree tilt sensors, an automatic lighting fault reporting system for parks, and grass height sensors. We will also make use of remote imaging to assess tree health, and more efficiently monitor and manage NParks’ greenery maintenance contractors using a fleet management system.  
We will make use of this pilot to familiarise and train our landscape sector and budding landscape professionals in the use of these advanced tools and technologies. When the pilot concludes, we will work with you in the landscape sector to deploy these technologies progressively as part of our park and greenery management contracts across Singapore.

At the same time, NParks will continue to partner our Institutes of Higher Learning to develop skilled young Singaporean talent, who will take our landscape sector forward and onward. Some of our students have already been trained to use the technologies that NParks will be piloting, and I look forward to seeing you demonstrate how to use these tools.

Indeed, it is an exciting time to join the landscape sector. As we adopt more advanced technologies in the sector, we are creating new and higher-value jobs. These will be accessible to young and tech-savvy workers, as well as older workers who can harness these tools to make their work less physically demanding but yet even more productive. As the landscape sector develops further, we can expect to create 1,000 new jobs in various fields over the next five years. These include arboriculture, horticulture, landscape design, as well as digital technology. 

Next, let me move on to talk about the Resident Gardener scheme, which is about involving the wider community in nurturing our City in Nature and the way it complements our efforts over the last few years.

Since 2015, the Holland-Bukit Panjang Town Council, in collaboration with NParks, the then-Workforce Development Agency, and the landscape sector, have been hiring residents to carry out horticultural maintenance in their estates. 

We are now exploring a similar scheme for the greenery under NParks’ management. To this end, NParks will be collaborating with landscape contractors in Ang Mo Kio, Punggol, and Yishun, to launch a pilot Resident Gardeners Programme.

Under this pilot programme, our landscape companies will employ residents to care for greenery in their own neighbourhoods, such as in town gardens and parks. We will reach out to residents and link them up with our landscape companies. We will also train these Resident Gardeners to use mechanised tools, where these are deployed at their neighbourhoods. In this manner, the programme provides an opportunity for residents who are gardening enthusiasts to supplement their income, while also engaging in their interests.

Let me take this opportunity to thank our partners in the landscape sector who are collaborating with us on this pilot. This is a meaningful collaboration in involving local residents to care for the greenery around them. We hope this will help foster greater community ownership of our parks and green spaces. I encourage interested residents of Ang Mo Kio, Punggol, and Yishun to join us as we pilot this programme. For people living elsewhere who are interested, please be patient, as this pilot will be rolled out across more towns.

Finally, I am very happy to launch a new edition of our ‘1001 Garden Plants in Singapore’ book. With a catalogue of over 2,700 plants found in Singapore, this will be a useful resource for landscape professionals as well as avid gardeners. I know many nurseries have a dog-eared copy of the book. With more than 1,000 new plants added, it is a good time to get the latest edition!

I look forward to working with you all to uplift our landscape sector, embrace the opportunities as we continue to green Singapore, and achieve our vision of a City in Nature together. Thank you, and have a good year ahead.