"Not only can vertical farming produce food more efficiently, but connecting the community to agriculture is very important. Vertical farming is as much about connecting people to the food system as it is about the technology," says Jack Leung, founder of Agrician.
Agrician is a vertical farm located in the industrial area of Fo Tan, Hong Kong. Having worked in the area previously, Jack was very familiar with Fo Tan and felt that a vertical farm could be a vibrant way of bringing new life to Fo Tan. Eventually, Agrician was built in an abandoned bicycle warehouse and has also become a social place for people to connect and learn about urban farming.
"We wanted to start an indoor farm that would also connect people and draw attention to farming. That is why we chose our location," says Jack.
The Agrician urban farm spans 200 square meters, with the growing area covering 100 square meters. Jack partnered with ZipGrow to install ZipRacks (i.e., a series of ZipGrow Towers) and receive consultation for their project. For the lighting, Agrician installed a customized lighting solution. The farm currently produces leafy greens, herbs, and edible flowers, all of which are sold through a subscription program. Agrician is also trialing Shishito peppers, which are a Japanese pepper variety that seems to grow well in the towers.
Vertical farming in Hong Kong
As Jack explains, there is a strong potential for vertical farming in Hong Kong due to the region's reliance on imported commodities. The lack of arable land means there are few, if any, local farmers and consumers who have a limited selection of fresh greens. At Agrician, subscribers always receive ten different herbs and greens. Jack also explained that following a subscription-based model rather than retail has allowed the farm to connect with consumers directly while avoiding the politics and negotiations of the supermarket channels.
Vertical farming also provides opportunities for community development, education, and connection to the food system. The lack of local agriculture in Hong Kong, as in many urban areas, creates a disconnect between consumers and food production.
"When you don't have a certain number of local farmers, people in the city become very disconnected from food. Food is only something you buy in the supermarket; consumers lack awareness of the food system. That's a really important part to play as a vertical farm in the city," says Jack.
To this end, Agrician holds community events aimed at showcasing vertical farming. The farm recently welcomed a local school and hosted a salad-making workshop. Kids were able to see the greens growing in the tower and harvest them for the salads.
Plans for expansion include farming as a service
Moving forward, Jack hopes that Agrician will scale up and become a recognizable brand across Hong Kong. He also hopes to create a platform to encourage more people to integrate vertical farming into residential and commercial buildings, which Agrician could help manage through a Farming as a Service model.