Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Visit to the Source of our Greens

Singapore is highly dependant on our neighbouring countries for a variety of resources, be it water, food or even manpower. To ensure the freshness of the produce that reaches the markets, they would have to be shipped (while not fully ripened yet) or air-flown. With the aim of reducing the carbon footprint, over-dependency on certain sources and maintaining prices, NTUC FairPrice has also been supporting local farms with the sales of their produce in their supermarkets.

Yes, a lot of hard work goes behind the production of that single plant Leroy is holding!
I am not a particularly fond of vegetables, but when the opportunity of bringing family on a special visit to the local farms came along, I knew it would be a great opportunity for me to show the kiddos the amount of work that goes into putting that greeny goodness on our tables. The kiddos may know where to find vegetables in the supermarkets, but going all the way to the sources would definitely be an eye-opener for them! 

These tall structures houses the towers that the plants are being grown on!
When we think of vegetable farms, the picture of a vast field of vegetables planted in soil comes to mind. Or at most hydroponics farming, which is also gaining popularity. But Sky Greens is taking it even further by growing plants in 3m, 6m to even 9m tall aluminium towers! Just like our HDB flats, the only way to maximize space is to go up. I would have imagined the farm to be using hydroponics but they are using potted soil instead, and utilizes hydraulic water-driven system to rotate the growing troughs so that the plants receives uniform sunlight, irrigation and nutrients! And the amazing thing is that all these only requires 40W electricity, making the patented system a truly low-carbon and sustainable solution to farming in land-scarce Singapore.

Red tilapias are part of the system too, with the water they live in and the waste they produce being recycled!

Where going up is the only way to go.
The plants are grown in these troughs of soil.

The vegetables are harvested by hand, packed, stored and delivered to NTUC FairPrice, usually on the same day.

The soil needs to be cycled and this is where they are kept before the next use.
The kiddos with Dr Ngiam Tong Tau, Chairman of Sky Urban Solutions and Mr Seah Kian Peng, CEO of NTUC FairPrice.
Many of you would be familiar with Kok Fah Technology Farm, as many organized weekend farm tours would usually include a stopover at the weekend market in the farm, where city-dwellers marvel at the range and freshness of the produce. But we were lucky to be treated to a VIP tour of the farm where we learnt all about the technologies used from the seed-sowing stage all the way to the production line where the vegetables are packed! And now we know exactly the stages the greens had to go through before it reaches your nearest NTUC FairPrice outlet as a pack of Pasar vegetables! Besides supplying their own local-grown vegetables to the supermarket chain, they also does the packing for their imported vegetables as well.  

The very down-to-earth bosses of the farm. 
The kiddo were amazed by the machine that does short work of sowing the seeds into their respective receptacles. 

It was quite warm and I guess Leroy wanted to be cooled by the automatic misting system.

Rows upon rows of seedlings waiting to be transplanted to the soil.

The kiddos learning how to harvest the vegetables.

And here we learn that harvested vegetables has to go through a vacuum cooler which evaporates the water in and on the surface of the vegetable to extend their storage life and retain quality.

The workers will bundle the vegetable and ensure the quality before the machines does the rest of the work.

And yeap, this is about the freshest it can get, only second behind our locally-produced crops!
It is truly heartening to know that NTUC FairPrice is helping SMEs by promoting local products / produce. In doing so, it allows the farms to concentrate and improve on doing what they do best, farming, instead of worrying over sales. Besides, where else can we find the freshest produce at the most reasonable price, other than our own backyards? Thank you for inviting the family over for the interesting visit to your partnering farms NTUC FairPrice, and we sure have a much better understanding of what goes on behind the supply chain now! 

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