Q: When did you have the idea of setting up a vertical farm?
“Initially, we were selling home kits for people to grow their own microgreens at home. While it is easy to grow microgreens using our kits, we wanted a farm to really showcase what can be grown here. The opportunity came up in 2014 when we collaborated with North-West Community Development Council to set up a farm at Bukit Panjang Hill. It is situated amidst community farms with many HDB blocks and condominiums nearby.”
Q: Why vertical farm?
“Farmland in Singapore is limited and there are lots of unused pockets of space that can potentially be converted into productive ones. It doesn’t take up much space to grow microgreens. Being small and light, they can be grown on trays that can be placed on vertical racks. Going vertical means making better use of limited space. It also enables us to design a drip irrigation system that helps to conserve water.”
Q: What do you grow in your vertical farm?
“We grow microgreens like red amaranth, mizuna etc. Microgreens are ideal for small farms because they take up very little spaces. They are packed with nutrients and flavours, and can also be harvested as early as 6 days.”
Q: What is your day usually like in the vertical farm?
“We start working during sunrise because it is the best time to harvest the delicate microgreens when the air is still cool. After harvesting, we dispose the roots and used compost in our composting bin. After washing the trays, we sow new trays of vegetables and place them on the racks. The watering will be taken care by our automatic watering system. The rest of the day is spent doing other farm maintenance work.”
Q: Have you always been interested in farming?
“I grew up in a farm and have been eating organically home grown vegetables before the concept was popular. When I moved to an apartment, I started finding ways to grow my own food in my balcony. After much experimenting, I find growing microgreens the easiest and most rewarding.”
Q: What are some of the qualities required for an individual to work in a vertical farm?
“Farming involves a lot of physical work in a hot and humid environment. We need someone who enjoy nature and is not afraid of getting their hands dirty. Farming also means they have to deal with bugs, so they cannot be too squeamish. Working at the farm also requires one to be observant and disciplined.”
Q: What were some of the challenges you faced with vertical farming, and how did you overcome them?
“As we make use of natural light, we had to work with existing light conditions to grow our microgreens. The highest level with direct sun is best for growing coloured greens whereas the lower racks are ideal for growing things like sunflower and peashoots. Our enclosed green house can get warm and humid during the hotter months, making it the perfect breeding ground for some pests. We have to take preventive measure like spraying organic pest control like neem oil.”
Q: As vertical farming contributes to global warming, there are debates if vertical farming should be continued. What are your opinions?
“Crops grown indoor obviously have high energy requirement, for instance from artificial light. While the cost of operating vertical farms is high and may have adverse impact on the environment, we can’t deny that the world is running out of spaces to grow food, and vertical farming can help to enhance food security. Hence, something positive is coming out of vertical farms.”
Q: Moving ahead, what are your plans?
“We will like to have more similar farms in the different parts of Singapore so more people can come and grown their own food.”