Travelling Farm sets up shop among CBD's skyscrapers

The Travelling Farm at Raffles Place Park is housed in a bright yellow, retrofitted cargo container and adopts its stocks to its locale.
The Travelling Farm at Raffles Place Park is housed in a bright yellow, retrofitted cargo container and adopts its stocks to its locale.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

It must be one of the more improbable sights to greet the smartly dressed professionals bustling about the gleaming skyscrapers of the Central Business District (CBD) - a colourful "farm" in Raffles Place Park selling potted succulents and hydroponic seeds.

The Travelling Farm, housed in a bright yellow, 20-foot, retrofitted cargo container, is a shop for plants and gardening equipment that also provides craft activities and a variety of mini gardening lessons that can be accessed 24/7 online.

Curious visitors can also sample drinks and snacks made from the Farm's produce, such as a salad of microgreens like sunflower and cranberry hibiscus shoots.

The Farm, which started its travels in December at Bougainvillea Park, will be spending three-month stints at Raffles Place Park, Dhoby Ghaut Green and Bougainvillea Park in a rotation that ends in December 2020.

Founder Eng Ting Ting told The Straits Times yesterday that the aim of the venture is to reach out to different groups of people.

The Travelling Farm adapts to its locale: while it stocks more flora like air-purifying plants for CBD office workers, it has more herbs and plants like chilli while in the residential area of Bougainvillea Park.

The Travelling Farm's roving set-up is made possible by a Ministry of Trade and Industry scheme that gives innovative companies either an allocation advantage in acquiring assets such as land space - the farm still pays full licence fees, however - or discounted prices for asset use.

The scheme, called the First Mover Framework, was set up in 2004 but revised in 2016 to have less stringent criteria.

"We enhanced this framework with the intent of trying to encourage more proposals from our start-ups, entrepreneurs and businesses to work with the government agencies to bring about innovative ideas that can address a certain consumer need, and improve productivity," said Mr Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information, and Health, when he visited the farm yesterday.

Ms Eng approached NParks with the Travelling Farm idea after seeing increased interest in her firm's vertical farm, Pocket Greens. NParks then helped with the submission of a proposal.

The Farm, which has been granted use of park space for 36 months, is one of two successful proposals under the enhanced framework. The other is a tie-up with Sports SG to provide a sports user experience centre.

Four proposals have been submitted since the framework was revised.

The new framework hopes to "support a pro-enterprise, pro-innovation culture", said Mr Chee.

"In a strong, competitive, vibrant economy, we need both larger corporations and also smaller SMEs and start-ups. The SMEs will help to supplement some of the gaps that larger companies by themselves may not be able to meet."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2018, with the headline 'Travelling Farm sets up shop among CBD's skyscrapers'. Print Edition | Subscribe