Eng Ting Ting’s Why

“I grew up in a farm and have been eating organically home grown vegetables before the concept was popularised.”

Ms Eng, founder of The Traveling Farm. SOURCE: INTERVIEWEE

2 years ago, while brainstorming how to integrate farming into city living, Ms Eng Ting Ting came up with the idea of The Traveling Farm which rotates its location between Raffles Place, Dhoby Ghaut and Bougainvillea Park once every three months.

The Traveling Farm is located in Bougainvillea Park now! Visit if you are interested!

Anyways, as a plant-lover myself, I am always excited to learn more about growing plants from individuals like Ms Eng who have green fingers. Turns out, Ms Eng is also the founder of Easi Garden and Pocket Greens. Easi Garden supplies growing kits to school to educate students about where vegetables came from and how they were grown; whereas Pocket Greens welcomes the public to learn about vertical farming and practise it in the vertical farms.

Vertical farming at Pocket Green. SOURCE: INTERVIEWEE

Vertical farming isn’t a new concept and has been gaining popularity over the years. According to Jadhav (2017), in 2017, Global Vertical Farming Market was worth $1,782 million, and it is likely to increase to $10,245 million by 2025. But

  • How much do we know about it?
  • Is vertical farming the future of agriculture?

Vertical farming is the growing of plants on tall structures filled with soil-less growing beds, with the use of less water and in a highly controlled environment (Cox & Tassel, 2010).

Al-Kodmany (2018) asserts that as food demand increases with population growth, vertical farming enables the production of more food on less land. In addition, as many of us are aware, global warming is a serious issue, and climate is an important factor that may affect crop yield and hence the world economy (Al-Kodmany, 2o18). Thankfully, with vertical farming where the environment can be controlled, Al-kodmany (2018) argues that climate will no longer be a limiting factor for harvest and hence food security.

In Ms Eng’s opinion, however, vertical farming isn’t the future of agriculture as crops like wheat need soil to grow.

Besides, how will the lives of horizontal farmers change if vertical farming was to become the main production method for crops? More critically, vertical farming is a contributor to global warming. It was highlighted that in order to produce a year’s worth of wheat through vertical faming in US, it would generate eight times the electricity (just on light) compared to the electricity generated by all US utilities in a year (Cox & Tassel, 2010).

In response to the issue of greenhouse gases emission, Ms Eng replied:

“We try to make use of natural resources. For instance, we grow microgreens which can fare well in our greenhouse that has transparent roofing. Thus, we eliminated the use of artificial light.”

I guess, in our attempts to enhance food security through vertical farming, there are adverse environmental and sociological impacts that we must consider, to evaluate whether vertical farming is the way to go.

But over the past few weeks, I have this question in mind: “If we can manipulate the growing environment for plants, why can’t we change the environment we humans live in? And if we can be in control of the environment, then does global warming truly matters?”

P.S. Do look forward to her full interview tomorrow!

References

Al-Kodmany, K. (2018). The Vertical Farm: A Review of Developments and Implications for the Vertical City. Buildings, 8(2), 24-59. https://doi.org/10.3390/buildings8020024

Cox, S., & Tassel, D. V. (2010). “Vertical farming” doesn’t stack up. Synthesis/Regeneration, 52, 4-7.

Jadhav, A. (2017).Vertical Farming Market: Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2017-2023. Allied Market Research.

9 thoughts on “Eng Ting Ting’s Why

  1. Hi Wei Qian,
    This is really interesting! I never knew that moving farms existed in Singapore! It is so ironic that vertical farms can ensure food security in the face of global warming but contribute to global warming too. As to your question, I think we can’t manipulate the environment we live in because the space is too vast as compared to plants which are contained in a small space, but these are just my thoughts! 🙂

    – Jing Ying

    1. Hello Jing Ying! Thank you for your kind comment! Glad you found the post interesting. FYI, the shop is made out of recycled shipping containers so it’s very green!

      Anyways, I agree to your point that the space humans occupy is many times larger than that of plants, and this makes the manipulation of our living environment difficult. But “because everything is possible”, I believe in the future, humans will develop technologies that can change the environment on Earth. But I think it is important, and I do hope that more people will start developing the habit of living sustainably. And because everything is possible, I hope we can mitigate the existing environmental issues together, instead of resorting to the use of technologies to manipulate our environment (someday in the future).

      Happy midweek and all the best in school!

      Cheers
      Wei Qian

  2. Hey Wei Qian!

    What a valuable read! Reading about the opinions and thoughts of vertical farmers definitely helps me relate to them. Your post on vertical farming is timely, especially after the learning journey to Skygreens.

    Here are my two cents on vertical farming. The engineering of farming structures at Skygreens is impressive considering how energy efficient they are. ComCrop, located on the rooftop of SCAPE, is also another vertical farm I’ve visited in the past. None of the vertical farming systems I’ve seen are nearly as energy efficient as those at Skygreens. However, no matter how energy efficient the systems become, replacing horizontal farming will be a big challenge. Most land used for agriculture is used to grow staple crops like corn, potato or rice which current vertical farms are not suited to produce. Therefore they can only supplement the food supply with crops like mircogreens. While vertical farming is a step forward in global efforts in sustainable farming and efficient land use, it’ll be long before horizontal farming can be replaced.

    With that, I share your view on the need to start living sustainably rather than depending on technologies to solve environmental problems.

    Looking forward to your next post!

    Brandon

    1. Hello Brandon! Thank you for your kind words!

      Indeed, our learning journey to Skygreens had allowed me to better understand the vertical farming scene in Singapore. However, it was a pity we didn’t get to enter the greenhouses at Skygreen!

      Anyways, during the presentation, it was mentioned that vertical farming at Skygreen can produce ten times more yield with 95% less water. I am sure a lot of efforts and thoughts were put into making vertical farming at Skygreen more energy efficient and greener. But I do subscribe to your idea that there is still a long way to go, and vertical farming at the moment can only be a supplement to horizontal farming.

      P.S. Enjoy your recess week!

      Cheers
      Wei Qian

    1. Hello Dr Coleman

      Wanted to share with you this review written by Arnold van Huis and Dennis G. A. B. Oonincx on “The environmental sustainability of insects as food and feed”.

      To answer your question, farming insects for human consumption will significantly reduce land use for agriculture. If we were to replace a 50:50 ratio meal of fish and soybean to 100% housefly meal, land use for agriculture will reduce by 98%. In addition to a dent in LULCC, insect farming also lowers the risk of global warming and energy usage by 61% and 38% respectively.

      Surely, the farming of insect for human consumption is more environmentally-friendly. But the thought of eating housefly for breakfasts, lunches and dinners doesn’t make me feel good. And I believe many people will echo the same sentiments as I do. So my take on this would be, while we look into researches on insects farming, perhaps we can hasten the innovation of greener and cheaper technologies for vertical farming, so that vertical farming can become more prevalent. I mean, if I need to decide between houseflies or vegetables, I’d gladly choose to survive on vegetables for three meals everyday.

      Have a great week ahead!

      Cheers
      Wei Qian

      1. Last year, a group of your seniors did their ENV1101 sustainability project on insect farming, with a proposal to bring foods made with insects to NUS. As I evaluated their project, I ate several cookies made with cricket flour and ate an entire, dried cricket (oh, the things I do to support my students). The cookies were great and the cricket was pretty good too. Take-home message… don’t knock it till you try it.

        1. Hello Dr. Coleman

          WOW! Did those cookies taste any different? I would love to try them someday! As for dried crickets… let me try the cookies first! Haha!

          Cheers
          Wei Qian

          1. Nope, the cookies tasted like cookies made with regular flour. I also tried the cookies before the cricket. there was no way i was going straight for the whole insect. but i’m telling you dude, it was yummy.

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