This interview details Urban Farming Partners, an indoor farming company based in Singapore. The interview is with Grace Lim, Co-founder / Catalyst / CEO at Urban Farming Partners.
What is the origin story of Urban Farming Partners?
Urban Farming Partners Singapore (UFPSG) is a ground-breaking collaboration between Dutch and Singaporean entrepreneurs, recently having developed an innovative indoor urban farm (which we have named GroGrace) in Singapore that leverages 100% proven Dutch technologies.
According to National Geographic, the Netherlands is the world's second-largest exporter of vegetables, trailing only the United States, which is 200 times larger. This remarkable achievement underscores the Netherlands' position as a leader in advanced horticultural technologies.
The consortium behind UFPSG consists of a team of experts in food production, processing, logistics, urban planning, engineering, and construction. United by our shared vision of providing clean nutritious food to people through sustainable agriculture, we have combined our expertise to create a unique and sustainable urban farming concept, designed specifically for implementation in major cities, with Singapore as our pilot location.
Our comprehensive business strategy aims to provide end-to-end solutions for urban farms situated in or near densely populated areas. Our services encompass farm design and engineering, construction, production, training, and the establishment of marketing and sales channels. Our primary goal is to promote locally grown, organic leafy greens and herbs, ensuring premium quality and freshness all year round.
Moreover, we are committed to offering a sustainable and circular alternative to traditional horticulture, addressing the decreasing availability of arable land due to land degradation. Our solution also tackles the challenges posed by climate change, water scarcity, destruction of biodiversity, and rapid urbanization. By utilizing solar energy and rainwater harvesting, we minimize our reliance on traditional energy sources and reduce water consumption. Our indoor urban farming approach promotes biodiversity by reducing the need for land conversion and deforestation, and the farm is also pesticide free. Furthermore, our sustainable farming practices contribute to mitigating the effects of climate change, while our urban-centered model helps adapt to the ongoing trend of rapid urbanization.
UFPSG's mission is centered around these core principles. We have also planned to harness digital technology to establish a transparent supply chain that enables end-to-end tracking of our produce from farm to fork.
We firmly believe that our solution will ultimately alleviate environmental pressure and contribute to long-term biodiversity improvement.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing Urban Farming Partners in the future?
One of the most significant challenges facing Urban Farming Partners Singapore (UFPSG) in the future is the high energy costs associated with indoor farming. Operating a state-of-the-art indoor urban farm requires substantial amounts of energy for lighting, temperature control, and humidity management. Ensuring the efficient use of energy is crucial for maintaining the farm's long-term sustainability and profitability. To tackle this challenge, UFPSG continually explores innovative solutions, such as energy-efficient lighting and smart climate control systems, and renewable energy sources, to minimize energy consumption and reduce operational costs.
Integrating renewable energy solutions, such as solar panels into our urban farm design can help offset the high energy demands of indoor farming. By harnessing clean, sustainable energy, we not only reduce our reliance on traditional energy sources but also contribute to the global effort to combat climate change. To minimize energy consumption and reduce operational costs.
Another critical challenge is attracting investment to support the growth and expansion of our indoor urban farming projects. As a relatively new industry, indoor farming may be perceived as a higher-risk venture by some investors. To mitigate this concern, UFPSG focuses on demonstrating the viability and profitability of our projects, emphasizing our commitment to proven Dutch technologies and our team of experts. By showcasing successful pilot projects, such as the one in Singapore, we aim to build investor confidence in the potential of indoor urban farming and its ability to address pressing global issues, such as climate change, water scarcity, biodiversity loss, and rapid urbanization.
Overcoming these challenges is essential to ensure the long-term success and scalability of UFPSG's indoor urban farming initiatives. By consistently improving energy efficiency and securing the necessary financial backing, we can continue to develop and implement sustainable urban farming solutions in cities worldwide.
What is unique about Urban Farming Partners compared to competitors?
At GroGrace, we're not just indoor farming experts – we're dreamers, visionaries, and changemakers. We believe that every person should have access to fresh, healthy, and sustainably-grown produce, no matter where they live or what challenges they face.
That's why we offer a total solution for indoor farming which includes design, engineering, construction, training skilled growers, and establishing sales and marketing channels for clients. We don't just give our clients the tools they need to grow clean, nutritious produce – we equip them with the confidence and competence to make a real impact in their communities.
Our growing recipes aren't just formulas – they're the culmination of years of expertise and passion. We've meticulously perfected every aspect of indoor farming, from design and engineering to branding and marketing, so that our clients can achieve unparalleled success.
With GroGrace, you're not just getting a product or a service – you're joining a movement. You're part of a community of people who believe that we can change the world, one seed at a time. Together, we can make a real difference in the lives of people around the globe, and create a brighter, healthier, and more sustainable future for all.
How do you measure the impact of your company so far? (Revenue, Employees, Customer Quantity, Production Volume) etc?
Urban Farming Partners has built our first farm which is our proof of concept. It is critical now that we demonstrate the value of the farm by bringing the farm to profitability. We are definitely tracking the revenue generated from the sale of our produce. Additionally, in the future when we have sold our farm solutions, we will also measure the quantity and quality of crops produced by our clients, as well as the number of farms we have successfully built.
Urban Farming Partners also tracks the number of employees we have hired and their level of job satisfaction, as well as the success of our training programs for skilled growers. We are a startup, hence there are not many ways in which we measure the impact of our company currently. In the future, customer satisfaction surveys and retention rates (for our produce) could also provide insight into how well the company is meeting the needs of our clients and whether they are likely to continue working with Urban Farming Partners in the future.
Another metric that we may consider is the social and environmental impact of our solutions. We could track the amount of water and energy saved by our clients through the use of our total solution, as well as the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and the impact on local communities.
What have you learned that you wish you knew when you joined or started the company?
When I reflect on my experience of starting Urban Farming Partners, there are two specific areas that stand out as valuable lessons I wish I had known from the beginning: the impact of increased energy costs and the importance of optimizing farm design based on the crops we aimed to grow.
One significant realization was the effect of rising energy costs on our operational expenses. Indoor farming relies heavily on artificial lighting and climate control systems, all of which consume substantial amounts of energy. Understanding the potential financial burden and exploring energy-efficient alternatives early on would have helped us better manage costs and improve our overall profitability. Implementing renewable energy solutions, such as solar panels or dimmable LED lighting systems, could have significantly mitigated the impact of rising energy prices, ensuring our operations remained sustainable in the long run.
Additionally, I discovered the critical role of farm design optimization in achieving operational efficiency, optimal crop mix, crop growth and maximizing yields. Recognizing the importance of customizing our farm layout, we could have strategically planned the types of crops we want to focus on, positioning of crops, and ease of operations. Such optimizations would have allowed us to further boost productivity and overall efficiency.
We are currently working on solutions based on these insights from our proof of concept GroGrace1.
How can people connect with you or learn more about Urban Farming Partners?
Please see video links to our farm opening graced by the Mayor of Rotterdam Mr. Ahmed Aboutaleb, Singapore’s Senior Minister of State Dr. Amy Khor, and previous Ambassador to the Netherlands Embassy Her Excellency Magrit Vonno. Also another video feature by Sustainable Urban Delta.
Source: Urban Farming Partners
Source: Urban Farming Partners
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