Dealing with nature and its elements poses a huge challenge for farming, and crop yields have slowed around the world. On top of that, the logistics of getting crops on planes and ships is but one of the ways agriculture contributes to carbon emissions.
Enter a new generation of urban farmers like Benjamin Swan, who wants to start a green revolution by growing crops in a sustainable way. The 38-year-old engineer found himself starting a vertical farming business, Sustenir, in land-scarce Singapore.
“I felt this was my opportunity to do something that would make a difference, an opportunity to fight the good fight,” he told me.
Swan believes vertical farming can improve how we use land. His first project: growing kale, which is unheard of in a place like Singapore. But growing kale indoors, he said, means he can be “127 times more efficient than traditional farms, per square foot.”
But with no background in agriculture, Swan was taking a risk in starting the business. So he did it on the side while working fulltime at a bank. For the first six months, he worked on taking measurements of the plants, trying to understand all of the inputs and outputs of the plant, the diminishing returns so that he could optimise growing.