Farming and locally grown produce don’t usually come to mind when people think about land scarce Singapore. But this is slowly changing as more and more urban farms are being planted around our city and usually where we least expect it. I certainly didn’t expect to see such a beautiful farm on a rooftop above the hustle and bustle of Orchard road. But that’s exactly where Comcrop has transformed a previously unused space into a thriving local farm.
I was given the chance to speak with Niya Gupta, Chief Executive Officer at Comcrop to learn more about why urban farming is so important to a population dense, land scarce country such as Singapore.
Niya explained that Singapore imports about 93 per cent of its food and that we are at risk of being in a situation where the countries we traditionally source from may not need or want to sell to us in the future. There are a couple of ways Singapore is addressing this, the main one being diversifying where we source from. But, if we want to be a purely sustainable city we need to find new ways to sustain ourselves. Importing food from further away also means we can’t tell what pesticides are sprayed on our food or what farm it comes from. Transporting all of this food to Singapore also has a big environmental impact, increases food prices and the quality and freshness of produce is not very high. Comcrop wants to address these issues by proving that it is possible to grow produce in Singapore, even on Orchard road.
But what’s so amazing about this farm is that they are not only providing Singapore with fresh and quality produce, they are also doing it in a sustainable way. Because they are located on rooftops they are not using new land for farming. They are repurposing space that is normally wasted in new and innovative ways. They also use a hydroponic farming system which does not require soil as they grow all of their produce in water and this water is constantly recycled. According to Niya, because of this, they use 70 per cent less water than conventional agriculture because water is not being lost in the soil. And of course there is the decreased environmental footprint of not having to transport your produce from overseas. We are able to harvest where we eat!
Comcrop is not the only farm in Singapore. Believe it or not, there are places sprouting up all over the island where you can buy fresh homegrown produce. Here are Niya’s top tips for buying local and sustainable food:
- Ask for local produce! Go to your local wet market and ask for local fruit and vegetables. You’ll be surprised at how much is available.
- Buy regional. We can’t get everything from Singapore, so in those cases try to buy food grown as close to us as possible. Fruit and vegetables from countries far away is often specially produced for transport and durability, not for flavour or nutrition.
- Learn about the farms that are here in Singapore and find out what produce is available. You can also check out Kranji’s quarterly countryside farmers market. They normally have over 100 vendors and it is a great way to get a good sense about what is locally available. http://kranjicountryside.com/
Comcrop is more than just an urban farm, they want to inspire people to be more engaged and interested in where their food comes from. On the first Saturday of every month, they have an open house where anyone can come in, have a tour of the farm and learn more about urban farming. To learn more about Comcrop or attend one of their open houses, visit their website www.comcrop.com
Urban farms are sprouting up all over Singapore and providing a variety of locally sourced food options. You don’t have to have access to a personal garden to get fresh, local food anymore. Support Singapore’s farms by starting to think about where your food is coming from and go get yourself some local food!