Looking to the skies for fields


  • Singapore
  • Thursday, 01 Oct 2020

On the rooftop of a Singapore shopping mall, a sprawling patch of eggplants, rosemary, bananas and papayas stand in colourful contrast to the grey skyscrapers of the city-state’s business district.

The 930sq m site is among a growing number of rooftop farms in the space-starved country, part of a drive to produce more food locally and reduce a heavy reliance on imports.

The government has championed the push amid concerns about climate change reducing crop yields worldwide and trade tensions affecting imports, but it has

been given extra impetus by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The common misconception is that there’s no space for farming in Singapore because we are land scarce, ” said Samuell Ang, chief executive of Edible Garden City, which runs the site on the mall.

“We want to change the narrative.”

Urban farms are springing up in crowded cities around the world, but the drive to create rooftop plots has taken on particular urgency

in densely populated Singapore, which imports 90% of its food.

Farming was once common

in the country, but dwindled dramatically as Singapore developed into a financial hub packed with high-rise buildings.

Now less than one per cent of its land is devoted to agriculture.

In the past few years, however, the city of 5.7 million has seen food plots sprouting on more and more rooftops.

Authorities last year said they were aiming to source 30% of the population’s “nutritional needs” locally by 2030, and wanted to increase production of fish and eggs as well as vegetables.

With virus increasing fears about supply-chain disruption, the government has accelerated its efforts, announcing the rooftops of nine car parks would become urban farms and releasing S$30mil (RM91mil) to boost local food production.

Edible Garden City, one of several firms operating urban farms in Singapore, runs about 80 rooftop sites.

But they have also created many food gardens in more unusual places, including a former prison, in shipping containers, and on high-rise apartment balconies.

Their farms use only natural pesticides such as neem oil to repel pests.

“What we really want to do is to spread the message of growing our own food. We want to advocate that you really do not need large parcels of land, ” said the firm’s chief executive Samuell Ang. — AFP

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