City farmers on a ‘green’ mission

PETALING JAYA: What initially began as a hobby for three engineering graduates became their full time job as city farmers.

Jayden Koay, Looi Choon Beng and Johanson Chew had literally brought farming into the urban landscape when they decided to initiate CityFarm Malaysia last year, a company specialising in indoor and vertical farming.

The Multimedia University graduates, who proudly presented themselves as "city farmers", now have a new mission to embark on — to spread the gospel of "green in the city" to the masses.

"The awareness of vertical farming in Malaysia is still low compared to other countries like Taiwan and Singapore. We need to put effort in educating the public," said Koay.

"To achieve that, we run classes with people as small as primary school, and run courses with those interested with urban farming. We are on a mission to change the mindset of the public," he told theSun during an interview at CityFarm office in Seri Kembangan.

Taking a step into their building, the view of lush greenery took our attention, with variety of vegetables produce were arranged on stacks in a controlled-environment room.

Looi, who was in charge of marketing, said the key advantage of urban farming was its efficiency of producing harvest in a relatively small area. A small farm could even be placed on a window of a small apartment.

Using the technology of UV LED lighting, the plants could further be arranged in stacks, with each product growing on top of another, dramatically increasing the number of produce per sq ft.

The farms, unlike conventional farms, were also not highly dependable on external factors such as weather, thus could achieve over 90% of harvested products.

"Furthermore, urban farming are free from the usage of pesticide and other growth chemicals that could affect our environment and body," Looi, an environment conservation enthusiast, added.

He said city dwellers can actually set up the farm, which requires only a little bit of time — seed germination, transplanting and harvest and the rest can be automated and controlled.

With just RM250 in capital, a new city farmer could start and sustain a farm that could feed a family of four to five people. However, Koay said the cost to maintain a bigger farm could be cheaper if the necessary equipment are readily available domestically.

A starter kit — City Window Farm — could help those interested.

"It is a beginner's kit to grow a single plant. It's small, but you have to start somewhere before becoming big," Koay said.