Hydroponics the future of urban farming, says entrepreneur

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Yu (right) leads Dr Sim (centre) and his entourage to see the hydroponic grown bitter gourds at the Emma Hydroponic Farm at Jalan Batu Kawa. – Photo by Churchill Edward

KUCHING (Feb 2): Large-scale hydroponic farms may require a high startup capital but this sustainable method of farming will contribute to the supply of vegetables all year round, said the managing director of Emma Hydroponic Farm, George Yu.

Setting up a hydroponic system can be capital-intensive – considering the cost of equipment and its technology but it also has its advantages, said Yu.

“Besides providing the farm workers a conducive environment to work in, the climate-proof nature of hydroponics enables them to carry out their tasks even during the rainy weather – unlike the conventional agriculture system.

Citing the numerous effects of climate change and changing weather patterns such as drought and flooding, Yu said this could result in a price fluctuation because of the growth and decline in market demand.

“Price stability depends very much on constant supply,” he said, adding his beliefs of the hydroponic farming system’s feasibility and economic viability if done on a large scale.

“This can contribute to Sarawak’s economic growth and its agriculture sector,” he said, while expressing his hope to see Sarawak becoming completely self- sufficient on food and reduce the needs of buying imported vegetables.

Yu disclosed that he has spent over RM5 million on his farm at Batu Kawa since it was set up in 2020.

“The farm, which grows 14 types of vegetables including Japanese cucumbers, has been producing an average 35,000 metric tonnes of vegetables per month,” he said.

Yu’s second farm in Batu Kawa transpired from the success of his hydroponic farm pilot project in Sejingkat, in 2016; as well as from his previous visits to Cameron Highlands in Pahang and the agriculture exhibitions in Peninsular Malaysia.

The hydroponic farming project, he said, was not under any government subsidy programme, but a research joint venture with the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas).

Deputy Premier Datuk Amar Dr Sim Kui Hian, who is also Minister for Public Health, Housing and Local Government and Batu Kawah assemblyman, made his second visit to the farm in his constituency yesterday.

According to Dr Sim, his first visit to the farm was four years ago, when it was still in its infancy stage.

“This farm has shown exemplary qualities and it would be good for agropreneurs to take up modern farming, and learn one or two from its experienced operators,” he said.

Agricultural projects need not be located in the rural areas, but they can also be set up in semi-urban areas where there is ready access to utilities and infrastructures, he added.