Moving forward with urban farming


URBAN farming could be the answer to the ever increasing cost of living, amid the rapid development that has resulted in limited space for food production.

Urban Farm Tech Sdn Bhd founder Francis Chuah (picture) said almost every space — be it a balcony, front yard or backyard — is a potential plot for urban farming.

He said farming is no longer only about having a wide-open agriculture land out in the countryside.

“Other than the rooftop or any horizontal vacant space, we can even develop a wall farming system that utilises the vertical surface of a building,” he said in an exclusive interview with The Malaysian Reserve recently.

With a relatively small space — perhaps a balcony of just 8ft (2.44m) wide and 10ft high — one can grow organic vegetation that would satisfy the need of a whole family sufficiently.

Chuah said the new farming technique, otherwise known as urban agriculture or urban gardening, could contribute in providing people with locally produced food and within the city limits, if not the world.

The engineer-turned-entrepreneur also said it is possible to help the needy in coping with food scarcity and hunger through the growing of plants within and around cities, communities and rooftops.

“If you see our design or concept of the urban farming system, we can grow food wherever there is a surface and sunlight.

“When I talk about surface, it does not only mean horizontal surface but also vertical. We have the idea, technicalities, technology and skills to build, make and grow food,” he said.

Chuah added that one can even utilise the indoor space that’s originally not able to grow plants due to insufficient light.

“Implementing urban farming in an office space is also a brilliant idea, as it is not only producing food for employees, but would make the environment greener and eco-friendly too,” he said. The world population is expected to rise by about three billion by 2050.

It is estimated that nearly 80% of the population will be living in urban areas or centres.

The rapid process and development of urbanisation in developing countries is accompanied with subsequent issues and problems such as urban food insecurity and urban poverty.

Most developed countries have established urban farming as a solution for urban food insecurity.

Chuah said there is a bright future for such an agriculture concept in Malaysia.

“I have seen transformation over the past two years since I began urban farming. I saw how the market grew and I can still see that there are many potential places that can be turned into urban farming,” he said.

While it is subjective to the kind of vegetation that one grows and how the crops would be marketed afterwards, urban farming can serve as a decent supplementary income for the planters.

“According to our record, one could generate a revenue of about RM600 per month from growing vegetables for a space of about 30ft x 8ft,” Chuah said.

Three years ago, the former project manager for water treatment engineering projects looked at the organic farming concept seriously by putting some research and development works before setting up a farm at a house in Bandar Saujana Putra, Selangor.

With just a capital of about RM100,000, his intention was clear — to get urban communities closer to nature by growing food in their own areas.

“This urban farm is about 2,000 sq ft, and it combines different types of aquaponics systems and concepts.

“Why the variety? That is because we want to show people that you can use different vacant places to grow your food through the aquaponics system.

“Through the system, we manage about 1,800 pots of vegetables,” he said.