Greens fresh from a mall’s rooftop

So many greens, so little time: A visitor seems busy choosing the vegetables that she can pluck by herself at the Fresh Growcer in One Utama, Petaling Jaya. — Bernama

KUALA LUMPUR: Going to the mall to buy vegetables is one thing, but going there to harvest vegetable for yourself is quite another.

Entrepreneur Emil Jihad, who used to live in New York, is offering people the second option with his organic farming, with vegetables that are pesticide-free.

His smart greenhouse cultivation uses an aquaponic system (a combination of fish and vegetable farming) on ​​the rooftop of the 1 Utama shopping mall in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, over an area of ​​about 7,000 sq feet.

Customers can self-pick the produce from the vegetable garden called Fresh Growcer.

Emil, 32, told Bernama that since he and partner Tony Yong, 52, began this venture in March, they practised the concept of sustainable agriculture to produce crops that are safer to consume.

He said the use of pesticides in vegetable cultivation is feared to be harmful to health and that although many vegetables sold in the market are said to be free of pesticides, there are doubts.

“Our customers can see for themselves that the water system used for crops is shared with fish farms and the fish waste provides a natural source of organic food for vegetables,” he said, adding that the greenhouse also uses 100% sunlight, and the mall’s exhaust fans for ventilation.

Emil said they chose the mall’s rooftop for their vegetable garden because the shopping centre was strategically located and thus it was easier for urbanites to get a supply of fresh vegetables and experience the garden environment.

He admitted that there were challenges as organic crops require more care than conventional crops.

Emil, who returned to Malaysia from the United States about five years ago, said he grew a variety of vegetables including red spinach, different types of mustard leaves, Italian basil and cili padi, in addition to rearing tilapia fish, and selling organic fruits that are brought from villages.

Customer Nazli Idrus, 40, from Taman Tun Dr Ismail said he learnt about the organic farm through friends on social media.

“Although the vegetables sold here are at premium prices, they are worth it because we can pluck the vegetables ourselves and I believe they are healthier for us and the environment as they are free from any chemicals,” he said.

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