Planting the Seeds of Urban Farming

I’ve been at university for coming up to four years now, and during that time one of my most profound realisations is just how much I hate group work. I will admit, however, that this project we are about to embark on is one which excites me greatly, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you.

So far in the subject BCM320, or “Digital Asia” for those reading along outside the university echo-chamber, I’ve been looking a great deal into auto-ethnography, and ways in which to better understand a culture other than my own. This is done through learning the experiences of another culture as an outsider, or as Ellis et. al. (2011) describe it, “an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)”.

Whilst contemplating a topic to explore for the remainder of this semester, our group came up with the idea of investigating Urban Farming, and in particular, the way this may operate in the high-density populations and often significantly polluted cities which are typically characteristic of Asian metropolises.

Our research journey after watching the video below from Vice Asia. This video looks at the food sustainability crisis currently faced by Asia, and ways in which vertical farming practices might help address this.

"Singapore has only 1% of its land available for agriculture, so it imports 90% of its food requirements. The government is looking to curb this dependence on outside food sources under a programme titled ‘30 by 30,’ which aims to allow Singapore to grow 30% of its produce by the year 2030. Local vertical farms like Sustenir are at the forefront of bringing about this change. VICE visits the sustainable start-up to understand the future of food."

It was during the viewing of this video that I had numerous epiphanies. One of which was surrounding the fragility of the food ecosystem in Asia as a direct result of extreme population growth. As Weinberger et. al argue, “the Asia-Pacific region was on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of halving the prevalence of extreme poverty by 2015, but recent dramatic rises in the price of rice and other staples have pushed millions of people back into hunger and poverty” (2009). Whilst improving food systems is highly important, perhaps what is more relevant at the current time is improving food supply, which is where urban farming comes into play.  

As Greens Grow describe it, “Urban agriculture has become a means to increase access to locally grown food and a way of reintroducing the public to the many aspects of food that we have lost as a culture. How food grows, what grows regionally and seasonally are all important lessons and make a better informed urban consumer. Urban farms can be the front line of the food system.”

 “Simply put, urban farming is growing or producing food in a city or heavily populated town or municipality”

Greens Grow What is Urban Farming?

As such, vertical farming may just be the way of the future due to the ability to grow more crops in less space. Having lived in a small apartment in the middle of the city for the past few years now, I am quite familiar with this practice of growing food with limited room, and am very interested in what this may look like beyond the urban setting of Wollongong.

“Perhaps one day we will be more responsible with the resources allocated to us.  We will be able to accurately assess the planet’s carrying capacity and health and live within its biological limits. Urban vertical farming has an important role to play to get us there.”

The Urban Vertical Farming Project, 2015

In the coming weeks, I am very excited to further this auto-ethnographic research and look deeper into the tangible practices of urban farming which may be implemented in metropolitan areas. I will be using this blog to document my findings along the way. For further reading about our approach to this research, have a look at the work of my team members Sunny Commandeur and Alex Mastronardi


Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at:

Greens Grow, ‘What is Urban Farming?’, online article, accessed 1st September 2019, available at: <>

Weinburger, K, Easdown, W, Yang, R, Keatinge, J 2009, ‘Food crisis in the Asia-Pacific region’, Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 18(4):507-15.

Published by susiealdermann

Fifth Year Bachelor of Communications and Media/ Bachelor of International Studies (Dean's Scholar) student

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