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Vertical farms

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Eco-business reports a development which will surely impact all the crowded cities of Asia:

There is now a new way to farm vegetables in land-scarce Singapore: farm skywards.

A private engineering company, D.J. Engineering, has teamed up with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) to come up with a device that can grow at least five times as many vegetables as conventional farming methods are able to given the same land area.

The device is 6m tall with tiers of planting troughs which rotate around an aluminium frame to provide the plants with uniform sunlight.

A water-pulley system, using rainwater collected in overhead reservoirs, rotates the troughs.

Harvests – of leafy vegetables like xiao bai cai and bayam – have already been made at a prototype 1,000 sq m vertical farm set up a year ago at AVA’s Sembawang Research Centre. The farm employs 19 of these structures.

The project is budgeted to cost about $1 million, an amount borne entirely by D.J. Engineering, which set up a company, Sky Greens, to produce the vegetables commercially and market the vertical farming system.

The target is for the local supply of leafy vegetables – produced by 37 vegetable farms here – to hit 10 per cent of local consumption in three years, from about 7 per cent currently. Local production stood at 9,800 tonnes in 2009.

Singapore imports more than 90 per cent of its food from suppliers from over 30 countries.

Mr Jack Ng, the owner of D.J. Engineering, said he has been sending samples of the leafy vegetables to restaurants and supermarkets. Feedback, he said, has been positive.

The 48-year-old, who also designs buildings, is in the process of patenting his invention. The father of two, who dropped out of school after Secondary 4, came up with the idea during the financial crunch in 2009.

The vertically farmed vegetables, he said, would be priced at the same levels as those grown at conventional farms due to increased productivity and low operational costs.

Operational costs include raw materials like soil and seed and electricity to pump the water driving the structures. But electricity costs will come to only $3.50 per month per structure, he said.

Carbon sink and source of veggies! can Mumbai produce 10% of its own vegetable requirements in this way?

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

January 31, 2011 at 4:30 am

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