Farming in a skyscraper city like Hong Kong would seem an abstract idea, but it is possible and there are good reasons why it should become commonplace.
High up and out of sight, there are already dozens of urban rooftops where vegetables, herbs and fruits are being grown. Parks and other government facilities and institutions including schools and hospitals also host community gardens.
While the percentage of people involved in the growing, tending and harvesting of produce is small, the benefits of healthier produce, sustainability and the social and economic impact are such that more should embrace what is becoming a global trend.
At the heart of urban farming is fresh food.
More than 90 per cent of what Hong Kong eats comes from mainland China or overseas and days or even weeks could pass before it is consumed, requiring special production methods. Health scares have led some people to turn to organic produce, usually from the hundreds of local farms that have been established in rural areas.
Limited land means Hong Kong can never hope to meet all its food needs, but there are innovative ways, even in a concrete jungle, of lessening reliance on imports. Rooftops, balconies, fence-lines and even flats offer opportunities.
A sunlit room, a box of several square feet, planting material, seeds and know-how are all it takes to grow a wide variety of vegetables at home.
But while the yield will most likely be minimal, there will be some fresh food, immense satisfaction and a better understanding of where what we eat comes from and how it is grown.
Rooftops and balconies offer greater scope, though, most being flat and largely featureless. If found to be architecturally sound for growing food, safe from typhoons and receiving plenty of sunlight, they can go a way towards meeting fruit and vegetable needs.
Urban farming cuts the need for long-distance transport, reducing carbon footprints and cost. Packaging and storage are kept to a minimum, while the greening of rooftops reduces the heat of buildings and streets.
Food produced in such a way is fresher and healthier and jobs can be created. With innovative and creative thinking, Hong Kong can more readily attain sustainability.
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