Forum: Aesthetic spaces can be used to grow food

Panasonic's indoor vegetable farm located in Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim.
Panasonic's indoor vegetable farm located in Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim. PHOTO: ST FILE

In March, the ambitious "30 by 30" goal was announced. This scenario involves producing 30 per cent of our country's nutritional needs locally by 2030 (S'pore sets 30% goal for home-grown food by 2030, March 8).

The announcement was made by Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli.

The ministry laid out four ways for this to happen - using technology to grow more with less, unlocking physical spaces for farming, developing local talent and getting consumers to support local produce. I believe two of those, namely unlocking physical spaces for farming and getting consumers to support local produce, can be easily addressed.

To unlock physical spaces for farming, we as a country should stop focusing on prioritising the "visual appeal" of our living spaces.

In almost all of our condominium developments, much money is spent on landscaping, carpeting precious space with grass to "beautify" the landscape.

In maintaining them, we harm the environment through the use of pesticides. Many owners feel the value of their property would drop without a manicured landscape.

The questions to ask is: What is more important for sustenance? Plants with a cosmetic factor that serve no purpose other than visual appeal or edible vegetables that could be grown in the same space?

There are several leafy vegetables that can be easily grown in such spaces. Old condominium developments have enough ground space to reap a regular harvest of leafy vegetables.

Education can help encourage consumers to support local produce and see beauty in spaces that are green but are not manicured with grass. This requires a mindset change.

We don't need strawberries and blueberries to survive. What we produce locally should be enough to serve most of our dietary needs.

We have had great success with past education campaigns. Our Newater story is something we all can be proud of. That success was built on the effort that went into educating the masses. I am sure we can achieve the same level of success with our "30 by 30" goal.

Babu Narayanswamy

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2019, with the headline 'Aesthetic spaces can be used to grow food'. Print Edition | Subscribe