Farming gains ground in the city

Asila Jalil

City Farm marketing director Looi Choon Beng demonstrates how little space is needed for an urban garden. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Kamal Ariffin, November 26, 2017.

THE notion that farming is an activity that requires a huge land area has been clearly debunked as urban farming gains ground among Malaysian city dwellers.

In the heart of Kuala Lumpur, Wong Min Lik has co-founded Moutou Art Space on the rooftop of a building at Lorong Panggong. 

The 35-year-old Wong said the rooftop was empty space before they took over in December last year. Today, it has a bar and a garden which brimming with fresh vegetables and herbs such as lemongrass, ginger, mint, lemon, passionfruit, and bitter gourd.

Co-founder of Moutou Art Space Wong Min Lik tending to the garden on the rooftop of a building at Lorong Panggong. – The Malaysian Insight pic, November 26, 2017.

“This is the first time we tried (growing a garden). This is a new experience, growing an edible garden in this city area,” said Wong, who didn’t have any prior farming experience.

The full-time artist said the idea to grow their own garden was prompted by concerns about pesticide contamination. 

Wong said the produce they gain from the garden is currently used for their own consumption, but they are eventually planning to distribute to communities around their area. 

“We hope to influence others to do this, because the more people joining the initiative, the better for the environment,” she said.

Growing interest

CityFarm Malaysia, a company specialising in indoor and vertical farming using the hydroponics method, said that demand for their hydroponic kits has increased almost tenfold since the company launched last year.

Run by engineering graduates Looi Choon Beng, Johanson Chew, and Jayden Koay, CityFarm was borne out of a hobby for the trio, who whose gardening kits are priced from RM13.90 for a beginner’s kit to a few thousand ringgit.

City Farm marketing director Looi Choon Beng, an engineering graduate, says the rising interest in urban farming may be due to greater health awareness as well as concerns over food shortages. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Kamal Ariffin, November 26, 2017.

Looi, 28, said the public’s rising interest in urban farming could be due to greater health awareness as well as growing concerns over food shortages as the world population increases. 

“All these factors will contribute to need for urban farming. Indoor farming promotes high utilisation of land. 

“This will help to sustain the world in the future. Somebody needs to do this thing now, or else we will not be ready for a possible crisis in the future,” he said, adding that the company also holds urban farming courses. 

To address the lack of space and soil in the city, Plant Cartridge has come up with an ingenious method for city folk to grow their own vegetables without the need for any land.

The company has come up with a cartridge that acts as the growing medium for seeds. Essentially, growers need only to water the cartridge which contains nutrients and seeds, and watch their “farm” grow.

“Soil has three functions which are to hold the root so the plant doesnt fall, to retain water, and to house bacteria that will provide nutrients to the plant,” said company CEO Channing Liang.

“If you can replace these three functions, you don’t need soil,” Liang told The Malaysian Insight.

Food sustainability

Environmental consultant Eats, Shoots and Roots believe that urban farming is a trend that is here to stay.

The key to sustaining the interest is education and support, and the group does not only provide gardening courses and workshops, it also  helps to design gardens for city dwellers with with limited land space. 

Strategy director Beatrice Yong said they have built 30 to 35 gardens since they started in 2012. 

“I think food plays a very big part of taking care of your family so naturally you see people turning lawns into gardens,” said Yong. 

Yong, who grows spinach, sweet potato, chilli, and brinjal in her own garden, said having a personal garden at home does not only ensure the plants are safe to be consumed but also reduces one’s spending. 

“I think it’s (urban farming) a trend but it’s not going to die anytime soon.

“It will become a need in the future due to increasing prices of produce and other factors such as general health scares. People will prefer to grow their own food.” – November 26, 2017.

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