How a parking lot roof was turned into an urban farm in Singapore

Leafy greens grow in the Citiponics hydroponic system.
Leafy greens grow in the Citiponics hydroponic system.
Image: Courtesy Citiponics
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A rooftop is filled with a hydroponic farm growing leafy vegetables.
Citiponics farm on the roof of a carpark.
Image: Courtesy Citiponics

Danielle Chan, co-founder of Citiponics, grew up working for her mother’s farm in Malaysia, delivering produce to Singapore. “I got into a discussion with one of my family friends and we decided to work on this project together. But the thing is, we really didn’t want to continue with traditional farming,” Chan explained. “We wanted to look for a more sustainable way of farming with the growing city population, and less arable land. We wanted to see where we were able to grow food in a more creative manner.”

Chan looked around her urban environment for under-utilized spaces. “In Singapore, there’s a multi-story carpark structure that’s available in every neighborhood, and around almost every mall,” described Chan. “We decided to see what we could create—a technology that allows us to farm produce safely, productively, and be around the neighborhood area in the community.”

A modular, hydroponic, urban farm

An elderly man harvests vegetables from the farm.
Citiponics encourages residents to harvest their own produce and provides job training.
Image: Courtesy Citiponics

In 2018, Citiponics received a permit to start their first carpark rooftop farm. Using a custom-designed, modular hydroponic system, Citiponics can grow up to 25 different kinds of leafy vegetables and herbs without pesticides. According to Chan, the 1,800 square meter (0.5 acre) farm can grow up to 4 tons of food per month using the Citiponics system. The system consumes about 1% of water used in conventional farming, and 10% of water used in other hydroponic systems.

Prices for Citiponics’ produce range from $6 for 200 grams of lettuce, to $2 for 200 grams of chye sim, a locally popular vegetable.

Engaging the community with urban farms

“Instead of going to the supermarket for vegetables, now we have residents that just open their window and can see the farm,” said Chan. “They get connected to their food source.” Citiponics encourages people without agricultural knowledge in Singapore to contribute to their food production process by helping with seeding, transplanting, and harvesting.