This profile of Gordan Tam, by Zinnia Lee and John Kang in Forbes, shows that “agriculture—combined with technology—has a promising future in cities, deserts and even in outer space.”
Not only can it make cities more self-reliant on food, it creates jobs more suitable for urban residents.
According to the article, the need for urban farming in Hong Kong became apparent in “early February when residents of Hong Kong faced a shortage of fresh food. Shelves stocking vegetables and the like were empty across supermarkets in the city as strict Covid-19 controls across the border in mainland China badly disrupted fresh food supplies.” Almost all the city’s food is imported.
Tam estimates that only about 1.5% of vegetables in the city are locally produced and that he “believes vertical farms like Farm66, with the help of modern technologies, such as IoT (Internet of Things) sensors, LED lights and robots, can bolster Hong Kong’s local food production—and export its know-how to other cities. ‘Vertical farming is a good solution because vegetables can be planted in cities,…We can grow vegetables ourselves so that we don’t have to rely on imports.’”
The company is learning not only how to use different types of LED lights for maximum growth but also “uses IoT sensors and robots for quality control and to help manage the 20,000-square-foot indoor farm in a way which helps companies recruit and retain workers.
The writers quote Tam as explaining how urban farming can also affect talent recruitment.
“A big problem for traditional farming is the lack of talent,” says Tam. “It’s because the children of many remaining farmers don’t want to take over the farms. They think it’s a very tedious job. But by using technology, we can improve the working environment so that young people will be willing to farm,” he says. Farm66 currently employs 15 full-time employees, including data analysts, food scientists and mechanical engineers, producing up to seven tons of vegetables a month.