Urban farms where you least expect them - at bus stops

The vegetables at the bus stop are placed in a hydroponic display so that the crops are able to grow optimally. ST PHOTO: WALLACE WOON

SINGAPORE - Singapore plans to produce 30 per cent of our nutritional needs locally and sustainably by 2030, but not many Singaporeans know much about the high-tech farms that produce them.

A new campaign by sovereign wealth fund GIC to raise the profile of urban farms in Singapore aims to change that, with seven bus stops islandwide sprouting vegetables such as kailan, butterhead lettuce and Chinese cabbage.

The vegetable displays can be found at bus stops at the Fu Lu Shou shopping complex, in Bencoolen Street, opposite the Jelita Cold Storage in Holland Road, next to CHIJ Katong Convent, at National University of Singapore’s Bukit Timah campus, and in front of the St John’s Ambulance Brigade headquarters and the Singapore Polytechnic School of Science and Tech.

Ms Carly Su, 22, a second-year student at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, said the vegetable display at the bus stop in Bencoolen Street had caught her attention during her commute, adding that it is a “cool idea”.

“It’s a nice change from the usual ads that no one really pays attention to, and it’s quite interesting to learn that Singapore has farms also,” said the Chinese national.

Another commuter, who wanted to be known only as Madam Ong, 61, said the display helped to improve the aesthetics of the bus stop at the Fu Lu Shou complex, where she was waiting to take a bus home.

She said in Mandarin: “I think it’s very cute. I know of some farms in my neighbourhood Yishun but it’s the first time I’ve seen it at a bus stop.”

Bus stops were chosen as sites to showcase urban farming as they are unexpected yet everyday locations, according to Ms Joanne Ng, owner of farming school Gardens with Purpose, which helped to build and maintain the displays where the vegetables grow.

She said: “We had to build a bespoke hydroponics system to sufficiently irrigate the crops planted at the bus stops and ensure that they had optimal growing conditions within the advertising box.

“We are very excited to work on this project as I believe it will get people to reimagine urban farming and how they, too, might start growing their favourite vegetables or just take their own small steps towards sustainability.”

She estimated that at least 100kg of vegetables will be harvested from the bus stops on Jan 12 after the four-week campaign, which began on Dec 16, ends. 

The harvest will be donated to charity kitchen Willing Hearts.

The vegetables will be harvested on Jan 12, 2022. ST PHOTO: WALLACE WOON

Foreign workers will also be able to grow and harvest their own produce at community gardens situated in their dormitories.

Under the WeGarden project, set up by the Covid-19 Migrant Support Coalition (CMSC), there are currently eight dormitories with gardens installed, with plans for another five in the coming months, according to the project’s co-lead Renita Crasta.

She said: “Over the months that CMSC has been working with the workers, they shared their love of nature, and how it reminded them of home.

“The idea stemmed from our concern over the nutritional needs and mental health of the workers, and the gardens help achieve these aims along with promoting further community bonding with our Singaporean volunteers.”

Foreign workers will be able to grow and harvest their own produce at community gardens in their dormitories under the WeGarden project. PHOTO: CMSC

Construction supervisor Mynul Islam, 30, said it was a “complete dream” when the gardens were installed at his dormitory in Sunview Way. 

“When I came to Singapore nine years ago, there was more space for plants but there are so many buildings everywhere now,” said the Bangladeshi national. 

The gardens feature plants such as holy basil, coriander, roselle, Indian borage, mulberry, belimbing and eggplant, which were chosen after receiving feedback from the workers, said Ms Crasta.

She added that WeGarden would be conducting Zoom sessions to share more gardening knowledge with the workers in the coming months.

“Some of the workers who help to maintain our parks and assist in indoor landscaping know more than we do and have offered to share their knowledge during these zoom sessions,” she said.

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