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Get Growing: Your guide to urban farming in Hong Kong

By Alisa Chau 21 September 2021

Header image courtesy of Rooftop Republic Urban Farming (via Facebook)

Off the top of your head, just how many vegetables or fruits can you name when prompted by the phrase “Hong Kong-grown”? As one of the densest places on earth, the reputation of our city is oft removed from the concept of agriculture, yet a close look at some of the least expected nooks and crannies around the city will lead to incredible discoveries of farming solutions that make the most of our limited space. In an environment that’s more concrete than compost, getting your hands in the dirt can be an incredibly freeing experience. Read on to find out how to get involved in learning how to sow some seeds of your own.

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What is urban farming?

Urban farming, in essence, involves agricultural activities that are located within the scope of a non-rural setting. It can take place anywhere within the confines of a metropolis, taking the forms of green rooftops above glittering skyscrapers, enclaves of lush produce that once existed as empty lots, or even ex-brownfields that have been razed over and transformed into verdant plots. 

At the heart of this concept is a framework of versatility, whether that applies to the space where these lots of green are set up, or the specified goals behind each endeavour. The spirit of adaptability that drives the practice has grown deep roots, and runs throughout the entire process. Sprouting advantages that are two-fold, these crops bring improvements not only to the environment but also the surrounding communities, leading the buzz surrounding urban farming to gradually pick up in popularity over the past few years.

Several major concerns have left an imprint amongst drivers of the movement. As climate change continues to worsen all over the globe, it has become an increasingly pressing matter that we are quick to prepare ourselves for upcoming crises, all whilst putting a stop to the damages that have led us to this fraught stage. Aside from being a counteractive answer to the carbon footprint left behind by industrial production and from the modern consumer, urban farms also propose an initiative of hope, as the forward-facing emphasis on sustainability has been geared towards nurturing a world that we do want to live in.

Why is urban farming important in Hong Kong?

Research by the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden estimated that in 2017 alone, up to an eyebrow-raising 99 percent of food supply in Hong Kong was imported, which in itself alludes to the precariousness of our food security as well as the pollutants or waste that comes from transporting these goods. Rising unpredictability in global conditions has left a giant cloud of risk that looms over the future, making it even more crucial that we begin to develop alternative sources for essential needs and mitigate these dangers for as long as possible. 

Ideally, by encouraging more individuals all around the city to adopt environmentally-friendly practices into our daily lives, we can form a network that connects us to the wealth of resources all around us, resulting in a symbiotic connection with the ecosystem. As we nourish ourselves, we are also giving back sustenance.

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Urban farming solutions in Hong Kong

Photo: Grow Something (via Facebook)

Grow Something

Founded under the overarching goal to combat carbon emissions, this one-stop service provides help in all the stages of designing, installing, and managing your organic vegetable farm. Starting with a consultation, you are able to get a sweeping overview of how the conditions and size of your given location can be fully utilised, and how your personal aims or needs can be integrated into the growing process as well.

If you have had experience dabbling in veggie growing and want to start exploring options on your own, there are also pre-planned set-ups for sale, as well as garden allotments for easy rental. What’s more, Grow Something’s online shop sells all sorts of plant-related gear and seedlings, with delivery to boot.

Grow Something, Unit 2603, 26/F, Man Shing Industrial Building, 307 Castle Peak Road, Kwai Chung | (+852) 2351 000

Photo: City Hydroponics (via Facebook)

City Hydroponics

A common misconception about plant-rearing is that it requires grand amounts of soil and earth, when in fact, there is a portable solution that relies on neither, and can be replicated in even the tiniest of corners. Hydroponic growing is a set-up that relies on water and is a closed system that circulates nutrients and hydration within that leaves little to no waste. Although it is necessary to incorporate outside sources for some essential nutrients, hydroponic growing is certainly one of the most efficient means of farming in a city setting, and is incredibly cheap, too!

Understanding the limitations of space in Hong Kong, having experienced and experimented first-hand within the confines of a modestly-sized rooftop, the initiators of City Hydroponics have crafted smart planters and simple tools to help you on your hydroponic journey. Sift through their various kits to find your all-in-one assortment, and get growing!

City Hydroponics, PO Box 767, Tai Po Post Office, Tai Po | (+852) 6053 6076

Photo: Rooftop Republic Urban Farming (via Facebook)

Rooftop Republic

As with every other issue the deals with space in Hong Kong, Rooftop Republic has decided to take to the skies. Established in 2015, this social enterprise has been transforming underused and forgotten rooftops and high-hanging walls into aerial urban farms. Organising frequent practical workshops, lectures, and exciting events to spread knowledge of this innovative practice, their reach is geared towards popularising basic know-how of organic farming amongst both adults and the younger generations. Under their belt are 50 rooftop projects that range from chic vegetable gardens in corporate offices to small-scale balcony crop collections in private homes, all the way to educational plots for schools.

Rooftop Republic, locations across Hong Kong

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Photo: Permaclub (via Facebook)

Permaclub

Nestled in an unassuming valley over Clearwater Bay, the project space of Permaclub is a small oasis of calm that encompasses a home-grown garden beside an expansive outdoor space propped up with facilities for various workshops. Involving the community in a hands-on way, there is a multitude of sections for planting that allow interested parties to reconnect with nature in different ways.

Drawing upon permaculture methods, the group establishes arrangements that are complementary and work seamlessly with the existing ecological atmosphere, melding together the design of the area with the activities held by club organisers. Stay tuned on their Facebook page to keep an eye out for upcoming events and socially-driven initiatives.

Permaclub, 38 Hang Hau Wing Lung Road, Clear Water Bay, Sai Kung | (+852) 9137 7747

Join a Community Garden Programme

Established by the LCSD in 2004 as an initiative to foster civic participation in green activities, you can encounter traces of the community garden programme in publicly managed parks all across Hong Kong. Over the course of 18 weeks, approved participants will be taken under the wing of qualified instructors, with an allocated plot of 2.25 square metres to facilitate the learning of how to plant and nurture ornamental plants, fruits, and vegetables.

Consisting of guided sessions occurring every Saturday or Sunday, the Community Garden Programme is an effective crash course that comfortably eases you into the joys of bringing in a little tinge of leafy wonder into your weekly life. What’s more, you will also be able to bring home your harvest by the end of the period to share with your loved ones! Get enrolling now by clicking here.

Community Garden Programme, locations across Hong Kong

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Alisa Chau

Junior editor

Always down for an adventure, Alisa’s general approach to life (and anything, really) is to “just go with the flow.” She believes that the most unforgettable moments are the most spontaneous ones. One thing she will always be certain of, however, is her love for the band My Chemical Romance and potato-based food.

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