[The Star] Farming solutions to help city folk grow fresh produce for their own consumption
WITH the rising trend of urban farming amid the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more city folk have started to plant leafy greens at home.
Despite the cramped and compact spaces common among high-rise residences, urban farming seems to fit in just well.
Urban farming industry players believe that it is the next big thing for them.
Cityfarm Sdn Bhd co-founder Jayden Koay said the urban farming system — be it hydroponics or aquaponics — allowed city dwellers to plant vegetables in small spaces at home.
“Urbanisation is a global issue and when a city is overpopulated, food security can be a problem to its residents.
“While traditional farming often takes place in rural areas, the distance from these farms to the city can contribute to the loss of nutrients in the vegetables.
“The food degrades over long distances and prices would be high after factoring in the logistics of the vegetables.
“The solution to this is to bring the farm to the city, ” he said during the Urban Farm Festival in Central i-City shopping centre.
Established in 2016, Cityfarm provides indoor and outdoor farming solutions, including vertical farming and hydroponics system for its customers.
Hydroponics refers to growing plants or crops without soil and feeding the plants with mineral nutrient solutions.
In an aquaponic system, waste from fish reared underneath the plants are converted into fertiliser for the plants. The plants then consume the nitrates and maintain the system in a balance.
Koay said those involved in urban farming either started it as a hobby or intended to expand it into a business.
“Some of them want it to be part of a healthy routine and plant the vegetables for their own consumption.
“This is good for city dwellers, especially those with limited space because they get their own urban farming sets.
“Those who want to turn it into a business should decide what they want to grow.
“There are four types of edible plants that can be grown using hydroponics, such as leafy greens, herbs, fruiting plants and root vegetables.
“Then they can delve into their preferred type of farming suitable for the crops, ” he said.
Koay also felt that urban farms would eventually turn into conventional farming.
“Even big farms in Cameron Highlands and Genting Highlands are slowly relying on modern farming methods without using soil, ” he said.
Aquaponics Hardware Asia (AHA) Sdn Bhd aquaponics consultant Yoon Wong said urban farming was a proven system that ensured food safety while reducing carbon footprint.
“Customers can enjoy the freshest of vegetables and safe products without the use of pesticides.
“As the question of food security arises during this MCO (movement control order), people are more aware of what they put on their plates, ” she said.
The company that now offers aquaponic systems is coming up with a mini aquaponics set for city folk.
“However, urban farming is still a niche market. There are many people who want to try out the system but are afraid they cannot handle it.
“We are happy to educate the masses at this Urban Farm festival, ” she added.
Sim Chee Kong, the director of Urban Roots Agritech Sdn Bhd, an urban farm management consultant, said individuals could do it as a hobby first before deciding to commercialise.
“Our companies provide business consultation to those who are in the urban farming business.
“While commercial farming still produces the bulk of it, urban farming also complements the segment, ” he said.
“Urban farming has gained a lot of traction over the past three years and the MCO has accelerated it.
“With the technology available, it helps bring the cost down in the niche market of community-based urban farming.
“Currently, we are in talks with five farmers across 29ha of land to combine and create a hub to help farmers grow and sell vegetables commercially.
“If the trend continues, we are contemplating exporting to other countries, ” he said.
- Johanson Chew