Bjorn Low, 35
Founder of Edible Garden City
What’s it like being an ‘urban farmer’?
Plenty of hard work! Urban farming’s when you use underused, small spaces in the city to produce food, then building communities around those farms or gardens. We do indoor growing and rooftop farming, as well as manage a retail arm.
What are some unusual plants that can be grown in our climate?
We’ve grown radishes, marrows, even zucchini. We’re focusing on growing vegetables like the sayur manis, which has a very unique flavour but can’t be found locally any longer. We’re encouraging chefs to incorporate these crops in their menus and make the plants sexy.
What are the most challenging parts?
Urban farms are small, which doesn’t fit into the traditional agricultural model of using scale. Growing high-value crops in a small area – like rooftops, which are dead spaces – is the challenge. It usually takes around six months for biodiversity and a sustainable system to set in.
After getting my diploma in biodynamic agriculture in the UK and working on a couple of farms in Europe, I returned here intent on farming on a small scale. We built herb gardens for restaurants, hotels and schools, and then started educational programmes.
How do you deal with pests, given the open concept of your rooftop farms?
We don’t use pesticides but we do sacrificial planting, where we plant a surplus of something. The weak ones get attacked by pests, and the stronger ones survive. It’s a survival of the fittest. Sometimes we get massive pest attacks from caterpillars and we lose our crops in a couple days, but it can’t be helped – that’s part of organic farming.
How do you see Edible Garden City growing?
We hope to find a more sustainable growing philosophy for urban farms. Urban farms teach people about growing food, bring together the food-growing community and create social impact. And I’d love for our urban farms to feed whole districts locally, before we bring the model over to Jakarta and Thailand to create jobs for the poor.