Facebook post drives banker to launch multimillion-dollar vertical farm

Next time you feel guilty about idling away your commute on social media, remember that inspiration can come from all sources.

That was certainly the case for Benjamin Swan, whose subway scrolling sparked an idea that led him to quit his corporate job and embark on a multimillion-dollar business venture.

"It all started with an article on Facebook," Swan told CNBC's Christine Tan in a recent episode of "Managing Asia."

"I was on my way home from work and I read an article by (microbiology professor and author) Dickson Despommier on the future of farming and vertical farming very specifically," said Swan, referring to the practice of growing crops in stacked layers, rather than horizontal fields.

"I was looking at a lot of the illustrations and thought to myself ... (this) just wouldn't work for Asia." So, that evening, the ex-engineer, who at the time was working for Citibank in Singapore, consulted "Professor You and Dr. Google" (YouTube and Google), and set about finding a solution.

Six months — and many long nights of experimentation — later, Swan, along with co-founder Martin Lavoo, finalized the first working prototype for an indoor vertical farm that could replicate in Singapore the conditions required to grow non-native crops.

And with that, the first seeds of Sustenir were sown. Within 18 months, Swan and Lavoo had quit their day jobs to pursue the project full-time; and today, five years on, the pair have pumped millions of dollars of their own and investors' money into vertical farms designed to make food production in Asia more sustainable and efficient.

Read more at CNBC (Karen Gilchrist)


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