Hong Kong is known for many things – gleaming skyscrapers, crowded spaces and cramped housing – but farming in the concrete jungle is not one of them. Now property developer Sino Group is pushing to change that with a programme under its sustainability agenda that it hopes will enhance the value of its numerous properties.
Spanning 23,000 square feet, the company’s Farm Together project currently operates six plots across Sino Group’s residential and commercial properties, including a hotel.
The largest, with an area of 11,840 sq ft is the Sky Farm at the Skyline Tower in Kowloon Bay where crops such as Romaine lettuce, sweet potatoes and indigo plants are grown. At the group’s Hong Kong Gold Coast Hotel, meanwhile, a garden comprising 40 flower and plant species is home to more than 20 different types of butterfly.
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The plots, two of which are on the rooftops of buildings, have become venues for the group’s residents and tenants to learn more about urban farming and participate in workshops to improve their knowledge and skills. Altogether, the farms grow more than 150 plant and crop species, and are expected to generate about 1,000kg of produce annually to be shared with residents and tenants, charities and the local community.
“With Covid-19 everyone really wants to have a connection with nature and bring greenery to their lives,” said Nikki Ng, group general manager of Sino Group. “Given the pandemic, we all want to be healthier, we all want to know where our food’s coming from and all sectors of Hong Kong and the people are all wanting wellness solutions and I think Farm Together and farm-related initiatives bring people closer to nature.” Ng is the daughter of Sino Group chairman Robert Ng Chee Siong.
The project gives tenants of office buildings a green space where they can have picnics or take their lunch breaks closer to nature, while residents of housing projects can grow their own crops. Farms in the group’s hotels also provide a leisure activity for guests who might want to try their hand at harvesting vegetables and fruits which they can then bring home.
“Because we are dedicated to creating better communities, where people can live and work and learn and play, and sustainability is central to what we do, we believe that the Farm Together project adds value to the living and working environment of our colleagues, tenants, residents, and the wider community,” Ng said. “Through planting the seeds for a sustainable future, our farms help breathe new life into the group’s properties by enabling people to experience urban farming, and we offer a whole range of community workshops, programmes and tours.”
Sino Group is not the only company to have launched urban farming projects. One of them is property consultancy JLL.
JLL teamed up with YKK (HK), a company that manufactures zips, to create a 9,000 sq ft rooftop crop farm on top of a factory building in Tuen Mun. In December 2018, the self-financing project produced 400kg of fresh produce in its first harvest.
Although such initiatives are supported by the government and are in many ways suited to the high-rise buildings of Hong Kong, the trend has yet to gain traction. Indeed, some agents are skeptical about the concept.
“It seems to me that urban farming is not an important component for residential, office or retail developments,” said Jason Kwong, director, valuation and advisory services, Asia at Colliers International.
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