Cultivating Vegetables Within Hong Kong's Skyscrapers: the High-Tech Farm by Gordon Tam

Published on: 23 May 2022
by KnowESG

Gordon Tam is the co-founder and CEO of the vertical farming company Farm66 in Hong Kong. The new high-tech farming technique he works on might be on its way to changing the lives of millions of people in cities, deserts, and even outer space.

The innovation came in response to the shortage of fresh food faced by the Asian financial hub, home to 7.4 million people, in early February.

Hong Kong largely depends on the rest of the globe for its food supply. More than 90% of its food, particularly fresh fruit such as vegetables, is imported, primarily from mainland China, and only about 1.5% of the vegetables in the city are locally grown.

"During the pandemic, we all noticed that the productivity of locally grown vegetables is very low," says Gordon Tam. "The social impact was huge." He believes that thanks to Farm66, aided by current technology such as IoT sensors, LED lighting, and robots, he will increase Hong Kong's local food production and transfer its expertise to other cities.

"Vertical farming is a good solution because vegetables can be planted in cities," confirms Tam in an interview held on his vertical farm. "We can grow vegetables ourselves so that we don't have to rely on imports."

Farm66 was launched by Tam and his co-founder and COO, Billy Lam, in 2013, as a high-tech vertical farming pioneer in Hong Kong.

He adds that his company was the first to use energy-saving LED lighting and wavelength technologies on a farm. "We found out that different colours on the light spectrum help plants grow in different ways. This was our technological breakthrough." For instance, red LED light fosters quicker stem growth, but blue LED light promotes greater leaf growth.

The reliance on the Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and robotics for quality control and to run the 20,000-square-foot indoor farm will help the company recruit and retain employees. However, it is not an easy task to find the right talent.

"It is because the children of many remaining farmers do not want to take over the farms. They think it is a very tedious job.", says Tam. "But by using technology, we can improve the working environment so that young people will be willing to farm," he added.

Farm66 employs 15 full-time workers, including data analysts, food scientists, and mechanical engineers, and produces seven tons of vegetables every month.

It has raised more than $4 million in total funding from investors, including billionaire Tang Yiu's ParticleX. Farm66’s other investors include the Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund, Hong Kong government-backed Cyberport, and Singapore billionaire Robert Ng’s Hong Kong property developer, Sino Group.

Last year, the company made the inaugural Forbes Asia 100 to Watch list. So far, it has also received funding from the Chinese government's Hengqin Financial Investment.

Source: Forbes