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June 13, 2013

Singapore Takes Farming in a New Direction: Up

Watch Singapore Looks Skyward to Take Farming in New Directions on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

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Singapore is one of the world’s most populous cities, but the wealthy island metropolis that is home to more than five million people only grows about seven percent of the produce it consumes. This may be an extreme case, but a lack of local food is a problem for urban areas around the world, and with 80 percent of the world’s population expected to live in cities by 2050, a problem that will only grow larger.

With such crowded quarters, Singapore’s residents have been forced to expand up, rather than out. But it’s no longer just office buildings and apartment complexes reaching for the sky; farming is moving upward too.

To tackle the issue, fifty-year-old Singapore entrepreneur Jack Ng has designed “Sky Greens”, one of the world’s first commercial vertical farms.

The system is 10 times more productive than conventional farming and requires much less water and maintenance. Ng hopes that he will soon be competitive with more conventional farms.

Much of the produce sold in supermarkets or served in restaurants is shipped from neighboring countries, which makes locally grown produce like “Sky Greens” a luxury item. However, despite costs, Ng says the fresh taste of his food is his main selling point.

“My customers keep on asking us, can you produce more? Can you supply more?,” he said.


“We’re going to reach a tipping point really soon where traditional agriculture can no longer provide enough food for the people living on the planet,” – Dickson Despommier, Columbia University.

“The questions arises, can we supply enough food for everybody on the planet, including a growing urban population? and I think we can. And i think we can do it by empowering people in the cities to grow food right there,” – Dickson Despommier, Columbia University.

Warm Up Questions

1. Where does your food come from?

2. What do you know about urban farming?

Discussion Questions

1. Do you think that urban farming would work in your community?

2. Why do you think it’s a problem when a community can’t produce food locally?

3. What impact do you think urban farming might have on traditional farms?

— Compiled by Carrie Waltemeyer for NewsHour Extra

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