Hong Kong’s urban farms sprout gardens in the sky
Hong Kong – With their heads in the clouds and their hands in the ground, a group of office workers are busy reaping the rewards of their labor on the roof of a Hong Kong skyscraper.
Invisible to those below, a vast garden of radishes, carrots and rhubarb blooms atop the 150-meter-high Bank of America tower, a stark and colorful contrast to the monotonous shades of concrete, d steel and glass of the city’s financial district.
The farm is one of more than 60 that have sprouted across the space-constrained city since 2015 – on disused helipads, shopping mall rooftops and public terraces – thanks to initiatives like Rooftop Republic, a local social enterprise which promotes urban agriculture.
Co-founder Andrew Tsui sees rooftop farms as a way for people to reconnect with how sustainable food can be produced in what he calls the current ‘instant noodle urban lifestyle’ that sees so much. of waste.
“What we’re looking for is really how to identify underused spaces in the city and mobilize citizens, people, to learn more about food,” the 43-year-old said during an inspection brutal site of the garden of the skyscraper.
Tsui believes Hong Kong people need to reestablish a relationship with what they eat that has been broken “since we started outsourcing our food and relying so heavily on industrialized production.”
Piles of food waste
According to government statistics, Hong Kong throws away some 3,500 tonnes of food waste per day, the equivalent of 250 double-decker buses. Less than a quarter is recycled.
And about 90% of the food consumed by the city’s 7.5 million people is imported, mostly from mainland China.
But while Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated places on the planet, there is still considerable space to grow food locally.
Tsui said that some 7 million square meters of cultivable area is currently under cultivation. But more than 6 million square meters on the city’s rooftops remain unused.
“So we might have the potential to double the supply of land to grow food,” he said.
“The challenge for us is to conceive of urban agriculture as a way of life to be integrated into our daily lives,” he added. “And the first step to that, of course, is to be accessible.”
To integrate urban farms into office building plans, Rooftop Republic works closely with architects, developers and property managers.
Large companies are signing up.
In addition to the Bank of America garden, funded by real estate advisory giant JLL, Singaporean banking giant DBS has partnered with Rooftop Republic to create an academy that runs workshops for beginners as well as professional courses.
“In Hong Kong, most people focus on the commercial value of properties. But we want to promote the concept of sustainability, ”said Eric Lau, senior director of property management for the group.
Urban farmers say the projects also help build community spirit among those who cultivate the crops.
After retiring from public service, Lai Yee-man said she turned to agriculture to connect with nature and her neighbors.
The 60-year-old first learned techniques and tips from professionals to develop her agricultural plot in the New Territories region of Hong Kong, a rural area near the border with mainland China.
But now she’s passing her knowledge on to other residents who work at Sky Garden, a 1,200-square-meter facility on top of a shopping mall.
Residents grow edible flowers and fruit trees here and can attend lifestyle classes like mindful gardening.
“People place more importance on their health now, they will buy organic food,” Lai said.
“Here, we teach them not to waste… and to cherish their food,” she explained, adding that the majority of what the mall farm grows goes to local food banks.
Tsui acknowledges that few young Hong Kong people are currently interested in learning how to grow food.
But younger people are often concerned about the environment and climate change, so the opportunity to generate excitement is there.
“If coding is the skill set to learn for the 21st century, growing your own food is a necessary new skill that we all need to learn to ensure a regenerative and green planet,” he said.
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