"Farming should be decentralised to empower communities"
We had a great chat with our good friend Zhi Kin, the co-founder of City Sprouts, which is a social enterprise to bring together hobby farmers, agri-preneurs, sustainable brands and neighbouring communities to discover their connection with food and people.
We visited City Sprout's facilities in Henderson Road called Sprout Hub where they offer the public to rent plots in greenhouses to grow their own crops.
Read our blog to learn about heir journey, challenges along the way to create more green community spaces and what's on Sprout Hub community.
Please tell us your family upbringing.
I grew up in a small town in Malaysia called Ipoh, with fruit trees, local vegetables and herbs growing in my family’s backyard. I was very much immersed in a community profoundly connected to food; where food fueled conversations and sparked the spirit of sharing and camaraderie. My maternal grandfather was a vegetable wholesaler and would go to his backyard garden every day to tend to his plants. That way of living was inevitably passed on and lived out in my mother and her siblings.
Please tell us why you decided to start City Sprouts.
Partly because I rediscovered this root and connection that I have with my childhood upbringing. Having that contrasted with Singapore’s environment, I got to see and understand the social and environmental gaps that the community here is not fully aware of, namely the disconnect between people and food and also between people.
What makes City Sprouts unique?
City Sprouts is a social enterprise built on the philosophy of urban rejuvenation and social empowerment. Our vision is to inspire communities through sprouting green spaces and programs. Sprout Hub is our first space located at 102 Henderson Road at the heart of Redhill. We have created an ecosystem that brings together hobby farmers, agri-preneurs, agrifood and agritech partners, sustainable brands and neighbouring communities to discover their connection with food and people. Through creative repurposing and activation of the existing space, we have quite successfully curated a strong and synergistic tenant mix, each buttressing one another to form the Sprout Hub community.
How did you end up deciding to invest in an urban farm over a traditional farm?
I met my business partner Zac and shared our views on how more ground up efforts to bring farming back to the people is needed in urban environments. While we still need to rely on commercial growers to meet consumption needs, farming can and should decentralised to empower communities to take ownership over their food supplies.
Did you consciously seek out to develop old school grounds and what does this reflect on your purpose or vision?
We do constantly seek out new spaces in general (not just old school grounds) that has potential in being curated into green community spaces. We believe in repurposing underutilises or forgotten spaces into green spaces that can inspire individuals or communities to take collective action.
This is the homebiogas biodigester that can accommodate up to 6kgs of food waste (raw and uncooked) a day and produce biogas with up to 2 hours of cook time
What are you doing differently in Singapore and do you feel like your initiatives are being recognised?
What sets us apart is that our mission goes beyond fulfilling the basic physical need of eating. While that makes up the foundation, we focus also on the emotional and psychological impact surrounding food e.g. how being in edible spaces enriches our experience and connection with food etc. We also feel that the green movement is definitely picking up a lot of traction in recent months due to the pandemic bringing to light issues about climate change and disruption in food supply.
This is Singrow’s pilot tropic-resistant strawberry farm. The facility is 7m high and each each accommodate up to 12 layers. The farm produces up to 1 ton of produce a year
How have you built the Sprout community and who is this community?
We provided a platform that brought together wide diversity of agrifood and agritech partners, ranging from hobbyists to agripreneurs, from artists to educators. Together, these partners function as an ecosystem in Sprout Hub to showcase the multifaceted nature of agriculture and the connections between different disciplines.
How has Covid impacted you?
It is a double edged sword. While our events and programs had to be restructured to comply with the guidelines, thus impacting our reach and social impact, the pandemic really brought the issue of food and sustainability into the foreground.
What are the challenges you are facing whether they are farming, education or funding?
When we started I definitely felt that community farming was something that is somewhat against the grain. It was challenging to convince others about our vision and the roadmap for us to create social impact through activating space.
What's next for Sprout?
Sprouting more spaces and programs and reaching out to more communities!
Tell us what the family dinner table means for you in terms of food memories, what you eat now and the Singapore food scene.
It reminds me of conversations, developing a deep connection and understanding of the people behind the food and showing appreciation.
What does Kampong spirit mean to you?
It means being entwined in an intimate network or community where sharing and caring is second nature.
How can our readers reach at you?
Phone: 6468 6772
Address: Sprout Hub: 102 Henderson Road Singapore 159562