Hong Kong rooftop farming gets off the ground
On the rooftop of a tower block above the hustle and bustle of teeming Hong Kong, dedicated growers tend to their organic crops.
Against a backdrop of skyscrapers and jungle-clad hills, earth-filled boxes are spread out on the roof of the 14-storey building, where a wide variety of produce including cucumbers and potatoes are cultivated.
It is one of several such sites that have sprung up in Hong Kong’s concrete jungle, as the appetite for organic produce grows and people seek ways to escape one of the most densely populated places on earth.
“I am happier eating what I grow rather than food I buy from supermarkets,” said Melanie Lam, a 28-year-old nurse, who comes to the “City Farm” in the Quarry Bay district of Hong Kong’s main island about twice a week.
With most of the southern Chinese territory’s seven million people living in tower blocks and land prices sky-high, unused roofs are some of the few places in the most heavily populated areas for budding vegetable growers.
Such cultivation has been gaining ground in London and New York for years, but Hong Kong has been slow to take it up, but now it seems to be getting popular.
“I think urban farming is becoming more popular… we have grown bigger in a short time,” said Osbert Lam, the founder of “City Farm”, which has about 100 regular growers two years after opening.
There are 400 growing boxes on the 10,000-square-foot (930-square-metre) rooftop available to rent for between HK$150-200 ($20-25) a month each.
But despite the growing popularity, there is little sign of Hong Kong’s rooftop farmers producing enough crops to sell for profit, unlike their counterparts in cities where space is not so scarce and the idea took root earlier.
Just three percent of vegetables consumed in Hong Kong are grown locally, according to government figures.