Vertical farming aims to eliminate transportation and energy costs while growing great local food.
Journalist: Early morning at Sky Greens, and farmer Jack Ng is checking on his crops. This is Singapore’s farm of the future. Instead of taking up large tracks of land, these plants will grow to maturity in troughs like this, stacked on aluminum towers. It’s called ‘vertical farming’. Sky Greens has patented this system of rotating vertical racks.
Jack Ng: Singapore is a land scarce country, so if we want to produce our own food, we must go for high productivity.
Journalist: At the heart of this system is a water wheel; an ancient idea adapted to modern use. Here it is powering the pulleys that move the racks of plants. The farm says the water wheel pump for one tower only needs the amount of energy it would take to power a light bulb. Instead of watering from above, the troughs of plants slowly rotate up and around the towers,
eventually passing through a base of circulating water.
Jack Ng: So the plants don’t over-stress under the hot sun. At the same time they can get nutrients and water equally.
Journalist: The water is then recycled back and then filtered before returning to the plants. This method requires far less water than traditional farming. The farm is also experimenting with water from its own ponds where fish help keep the water nutrient-rich.
Sky Greens has just over 100 of these towers in operation with a goal of producing over 2,000 by 2014. The company also hopes to eventually sell its technology in other countries.
This is the first venture into vertical farming in Singapore, and the country is eager for high-tech agriculture. With land at a premium, traditional farming has been largely phased out. The country imports more than 90% of its food. The farm has backing from the government which sees the value to the food supply but also sees the commercial value of this type of sustainable farming.
From the tower to the supermarket compared to imported food, locally-grown food cuts down CO2 pollution emitted during transport. The fledgling has enough volume to place its produce in only a handful of stores in Singapore’s major local chains, but the supermarket says that in two months sales have climbed by 40%.
Supermarket manager: The customers are fully aware that this is coming from the local farm. Tey know they are able to get fresher vegetables.
Journalist: And customers seem happy to buy Singapore-grown vegetables.
Customer: It’s freshly picked this morning… For me, for preparation is very easy.
Journalist: Sweet and sustainable. If you want to solve the problem of growing food where land is scarce, reach for the sky!
- Are you concerned at all about the regular practice of importing produce grown from distant countries around the world to your local bodega?
- What are some of the ways we might be able to encourage the production and consumption of more local food?
- Have you ever heard of vertical farming?