What is Urban Farming?
The first thing that comes to mind when you hear the phrase “Urban Farming” would probably be thinking of the vertical, high-tech farms in laboratories, by people in lab coats and gloves, where plants are stacked on shelves upon shelves.
Is that it? No, there is much more to discover.
To put it simply, urban farming is the practice of growing produce in urban or suburban areas. Aside from vertical farming shown above, there are multiple variations of urban farming,
Backyard Gardening, etc,
Urban Farming in the city
However, one does not have to be a large-scale producer in order to own an urban farm. In fact, many urban farmers in Singapore explore it as a hobby, and as a way of procuring fresh cooking ingredients for a much cheaper price.
Sounds complicated? Not to worry, there are thousands of urban farmers who come together to learn from each others’ experiences. On Facebook, multiple successful groups have been created for people who seek to obtain and impart knowledge about urban farming. All of these groups bring together hobbyists of different skill levels, from beginners to experienced gardeners, all looking to ask for advice and share their experiences. Because there is no soil involved, it's a cleaner hobby than traditional gardening, though it can be expensive.
Rising popularity for Urban Farming
Currently, there is a rising popularity for urban farming, which spiked during the Covid-19 circuit breaker, where panic-buying resulted in markets being depleted of a variety of products, including different types of vegetables.
Farm 85 Trading, a vegetable farm which also sells seedlings and farm supplies, said that its sales spiked up by five times right after the circuit breaker was announced. Mr Kevin Tan, director of Ban Lee Huat Seed said they saw a 50 per cent increase in sales of seeds since the start of the outbreak. This was along with more interest in asian leafy greens like bok choy and kang kong.
Singapore's food imports
90% of Singapore’s food products are imported, and this was unfortunately made very clear during the supply-chain disruptions when countries shut down their borders internationally. However, Singapore plans to grow 30% of their produce by 2030, investing $60 million into the Agri-Food Cluster Transformation Fund and $23 million into R&D in sustainable urban food production, thereby enhancing the production capabilities for urban farms, and encouraging new businesses in the urban farming sector.
Why not Traditional Farming?
Traditional farming may be cheaper, but it comes with other costs.
Deforestation, high carbon footprint, pollution, wastage of water resources are all common concerns of traditional farming.
Urban farming may require more funds, but it makes fresh produce more accessible in an urban environment. It also requires less space to grow, making it an ideal solution for Singapore’s limited land area.
Much like traditional farming, urban farming requires the introduction of nutrients into the soil for the healthy growth of plants, be it compost or fertilizer. Should one choose to use the latter, the best type of fertilizer to use for urban farming would be a controlled release fertilizer. This is because it controls the release of nutrients into the soil over time. This reduces the chance of over fertilization, which can impede plant growth and make plants more susceptible to pests and disease.