How This S’porean Built 200 Urban Farms

It’s hard work to make any business profitable, let alone a social business.

Despite this challenge, Edible Garden City (EGC) recorded a whopping $ 1.4 million in revenue in 2018, which then skyrocketed to $ 1.7 million in 2019, the highest since inception. of the society.

For an urban farm that started with just $ 10,000 in initial capital eight years ago, this is an impressive achievement.

Started by Bjorn Low, a former advertiser turned urban farmer, the social enterprise has been planting edible greens in Singapore’s cityscape for nearly a decade.

“Overall, our main social goal is to help all Singaporeans grow their own food; to heal the mind, body and soul as well as the environment, ”says Sarah Rodrigruez, Marketing Manager at EGC.

“When we launched EGC in 2012, urban agriculture was still very little known. Now Singaporeans have become much more aware of the local agricultural industry. They are more aware of what products we can grow, how we can grow them in our climate, where our farms are located and who our farmers are.

Why he chose to be an urban farmer

Running an urban farm takes a lot of work.

Bjorn spends his days in back-to-back meetings checking in with different teams, meeting coworkers and other farmers.

Bjorn low edible garden city
Image Credit: Generation T

“But whenever I have free time, I usually head to the garden,” Bjorn says. “It’s also nice to come back to the farm on the weekends to do some gardening.”

Bjorn fell in love with farming and farming while working as an advertising manager in Great Britain.

After a ten-year career in one of the world’s fastest growing industries, he decided to take a hiatus, which culminated in a four-year trip through Europe and Japan.

During this time, Bjorn worked on organic farms and even considered owning his own farm at some point. However, it wasn’t until he returned home to Singapore in 2012 that he decided to start his urban farming business.

It’s a surprising career choice, given Singapore’s urbanized cityscape and limited land space, but Bjorn is committed to his mission.

“In Singapore, few people have had the privilege of visiting farms, so they don’t have a connection to their food source,” he explains.

“And we also have to understand that not everyone is interested in urban agriculture, gardening or sustainability topics. Yet we all have a role to play.

Start a Million Dollar Farm Business

EGC is best known for its urban gardens, with over 200 settled around Singapore in just seven years. This includes buildings like Marina Bay Sands, Resort World Sentosa, and the Raffles City rooftop.

City edible garden urban farms singapore
Image Credit: Look Box Living

The social enterprise has also launched its “proudest initiative to date,” a citizen farm that grows and distributes local produce in a dilapidated and abandoned prison at 60 Jalan Penjara.

It also employs socially disadvantaged people, working with the Autism Resource Center and the Down Syndrome Association of Singapore.

In addition to Citizen Farm, EGC has three production farms in Queenstown, Raffles City Mall and Funan, which grow up to 50 varieties of edible vegetables, fruits, and flowers.

EGC uses a balance between agricultural and natural farming methods to grow products. According to Sarah, natural farming is the most sustainable way of farming because it keeps the soil productive for future generations.

The technology is only used selectively to grow crops that require more care and control and that overcome limitations such as space or climate, she added.

This includes vegetables like kale or komatsuna (Japanese mustard spinach), which are grown in indoor climate controlled environments with stacked growing points.

Have local products delivered to your door

Citizen Farm products are sold directly to individuals and businesses. Over 40 local restaurants and bars, including Labyrinth, CandleNut, and Chef’s Table, get their ingredients from Citizen Farm.

Their products are even infused into Spa Esprit skincare products.

Individuals can buy a Citizen Box filled with local produce straight from the farm.

A 12-week subscription costs S $ 470.80 (reduced to around S $ 39 per week), giving you a wide variety of freshly grown local vegetables ranging from Okinawan Spinach and Red Mustard Frills to Bok Choy, Kailan and Moreover.

Garden City edible citizen box
Image Credit: Citizen Farm

“In addition to growing food and building gardens, we’ve grown by offering tours and workshops, as well as grow kits and even lifestyle products,” says Sarah.

“Over the years, we have understood the importance of a diverse business model that not only focuses on food production, but also actively aims to promote local agriculture in Singapore.”

In the near future, EGC will explore therapeutic horticulture to help alleviate the social issues that Singapore’s population is rapidly aging.

“Gardening has incredible physical, mental and emotional benefits and has been scientifically proven to improve the health and well-being of everyone from stressed office workers to the elderly,” she added.

Achieve Singapore’s “30 by 30” targets

Singapore has launched an initiative to increase the share of locally supplied food to 30% by 2030.

The pandemic has only catalyzed the initiative, with the government announcing a S $ 30 million investment in local farms in April early this year, and EGC will be one of the key players working to make these happen. Goals.

“Government and industry collectively aim for 30 by 30, and it’s a realistic goal that we’re optimistic about reaching,” Sarah says.

“More Singaporeans are supporting local agriculture and choosing to buy local products rather than imported varieties. For urban agriculture to thrive in Singapore, Singaporeans must appreciate its importance. This would lead to demand for local products, a strong workforce and increased investment in the sector. “

agriculture singapore
Image Credit: DBS

Currently, there are still pockets of underutilized green space that could be activated as farms. In Singapore, we must first “maximize our space, our talents and our capabilities”.

“The technology has advanced so much that in terms of capabilities, we could probably grow any culture here in Singapore.”

“(But) the goal should not be to produce 100% of our food locally, but to allocate the optimal amount of resources to produce a comfortable amount locally, while diversifying imports.”

Grow what you want to eat

One of EGC’s goals is to teach Singaporeans how to grow their own produce.

The main goal is to grow products that you love to eat, Sarah says. The second tip is to grow products that work well under the conditions you have.

“For example, if you don’t like eating lady’s fingers, don’t grow it because you won’t be as motivated to take care of it, and you won’t enjoy the crops as much.”

Next, consider where your plant is growing, access factors such as how much sunlight your plant will receive and how often you can water it. This helps narrow down your choices.

“Besides lady’s fingers, mints, spinach, tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, pumpkins, bak choy and kai lan are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what can do well in our climate, ”says Sarah.

“Every Singaporean can do their part to help Singapore become more food resilient,” she continues.

“These efforts don’t stop at buying local produce or having their own herb garden; it can be by volunteering, reducing food waste, or even promoting restaurants that buy from local farmers. “

“We hope to help each individual find their own way to contribute.”

Featured Image Credit: Epicure Asia

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Jothi Venkat

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