Penang launches first self-sustaining urban farm, aims for 100 hubs by 2023

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow speaks to the press at the SPICE Convention Centre in Bayan Lepas September 8, 2020. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow speaks to the press at the SPICE Convention Centre in Bayan Lepas September 8, 2020. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Sept 14 — Penang today launched its first self-sustaining community urban farm that can potentially feed up to 400 households each harvest. 

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the initiative was implemented in collaboration with the Chief Minister Incorporated (CMI), Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) and Think City.

“We hope to set up 100 community farm hubs, based on the urban farming concept, in the state, preferably by 2023 as the time frame of reaching this in 2030 is too long,” he said in his speech at the launch of the farm at the Penang Digital Library here.

He said the community urban farming concept started out with the success of the Malaysia First Vanilla Smart Farm that was officiated at the Permatang Pauh Agropark last month. 

“Community farming has a bright prospect to be further developed and even at my residence, there is a pilot project of an urban farm covering about 200 sq ft,” he said.

He said the community urban farm at the Penang Digital Library (PDL1), on about 2,000 sq ft of land, is a strategic location as the digital library is a knowledge hub that are often visited by people of all ages. 

“Think City is fully funding this project while UPSI will be providing their expertise in developing the farm including developing an agricultural system using the Internet of Things,” he said.

He said the state agricultural department provided the seedlings for the community farm and the project included the use of vertical aquaponic and economical food waste composters.

The smart and green community farming at PDL1 will be a pilot project for the state to refer to develop other pocket lands to be converted into urban farms, he said.

Chow said the produce generated from the urban farm in PDL1 will be able to feed the B40 households.

“The produce will be distributed to B40 families through various channels such as the Mutiara Food Bank,” he said.

He said each phase of the community farming will be managed through applications such as Kebun Kitar and K2K to ensure the care, management and distribution of the produce are conducted in a transparent and efficient manner. 

He said one of the main aspects of the community farming concept in PDL1 is food security as the fertiliser used is made of organic compost generated by the economical food waste composter (EFWC), an invention by UPSI Associate Professor Che Zalina Zulkifli. 

He said the EFWC patent was already in use at several locations such as the residence of the Penang governor’s residence, in several schools for education purposes, restaurants and some local communities.

“A total 27 of the composting machines are now in use in Butterworth, in collaboration with the Seberang Perai City Council, and also in George Town,” he said.

The community urban farm at PDL1, called Kebun Kita(r), is fully self-sustaining and is enhanced by smart systems including automated irrigation, vertical hydroponics, solar panels for energy, rainwater harvesting and a comprehensive zero-waste management system.

The farm was set up with an initial investment of RM50,000 and will channel 60 per cent of the produce to B40 communities while the remaining 40 per cent will be commercialised to support the operations of the farm.

According to Think City Managing Director Hamdan Abdul Majeed, the urban farm is part of Think City’s ‘Kita to Kita” (K2K) programme that utilises a digital platform to capture, analyse data and develop interventions than can improve the quality of life and wellbeing of the B40 communities.

“In this case, K2K will be used to register, track and distribute produce to B40 households,” he said.

He added that there are opportunities to replicate the Kebun Kita(r) model in other locations in Penang and other cities nationwide. 

“A sustainable urban farming movement can enable communities to grow food independently, and potentially provide opportunities for employment, entrepreneurship and social cohesion,” he said.

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