I was invited by the Founder and CEO of Urban Greens to join the pesto making workshop in Poblacion Ruins, Makati. The difference between this pesto-making workshop and other workshops around Manila is from the ingredients we use. We got to pick our own fresh basil from a vertical farm grown straight from within the walls of the venue.
Farm-to-table in Metro Manila
Urban Greens’ mission is to disrupt the vegetable food scene in the Philippines and its regions by introducing healthier and smarter grown greens – greens grown entirely hydroponically. Growing greens hydroponically means that there are no pesticides, no fertilizers, and no fungicides while using a minimal amount of water. In addition, solar energy powers the greens to grow near the places of consumption, and this approach dramatically reduces the farm to table distance, therefore, minimizing the carbon footprint impact.
Risk factors with our current situation
In Manila alone, 30% of all the trucks transport food or food-related products. The Philippines also imports quite a lot of food and vegetables from Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and other countries, causing not only a tremendous toll on the atmosphere and carbon footprint.
Filipinos are meat lovers, and the volume of meat consumed in relation to healthy vegetables and greens is one of the main reasons why the Philippines ranks amongst the highest in the region for high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. There is also a growing number of fast food joints around the metro, and you can see striking deficiencies in overall healthy food awareness as well as the availability of good quality vegetables.
Rural farming crisis
The Philippines battles with many typhoons on an annual basis, and during summer, the blistering heat can affect the fresh vegetable produce by independent farmers. Many smaller scale farms still do not have the technology to handle different challenges. Costs and taste of the fresh produce are then compromised.
On an interview with Ralph Becker, CEO & Founder of Urban Greens:
What is currently happening in the Philippines is inspiring! Filipinos crave anything new and unique and are very receptive to trying out new trends that can improve their lives. We have been met with nothing less than overwhelming feedback and can barely keep up with the demand for our products.
On the other hand, we are very happy that the urban farm solution we have can provide much-needed help to the poorest of the poor here. We have teamed up with feeding programs in Tondo, Baseco and the Smokey Mountains to improve the lives of children who in the majority are deficient in basic vitamins such as Vitamin A and C and such crucial minerals like magnesium, iron, and calcium that support bone and muscle growth, mental capacity and improve overall health.
Though we won’t be able to solve all of today’s problems, we are certainly motivated to make our mark in providing healthy food and livelihood to those the most vulnerable in our society.
How does hydroponics work?
The plants are grown entirely hydroponic which means that instead of grown in soil, all the natural nutrients and minerals that a plant need to grow, are mixed into the water which makes it less prone to diseases and bugs so we don’t need to use pesticides or fungicides. Since you grow at your own home or bar or restaurant the plants are super fresh because you harvest when you need it and how much you need. That eliminates the food waste as well. The plants that we can grow in our hydroponic towers are mostly greens and vegetables as well as herbs and spices. We are currently experimenting with cherry tomatoes and strawberries. How awesome would that be if you had your own strawberry tower at home?!? I know right!? What should the buyers expect in terms of maintenance? The word hydroponics is composed of two words. “Hydro” as you know means “water” and “ponics” means “to labor/ to work with”. So you’re basically letting the water do all your work here for you! What we hear a lot about people attempting to grow plants at home is that they don’t have a green thumb and most plants die a sad and miserable death not long after purchase. This is mostly due to over or under watering the plants and you really need to know what you are doing. Missing a couple of days due to a weekend trip and then making up for it by drowning them are all factors why people are frustrated about growing plants at home. With hydroponics systems that maintenance is completely taken care of since the plants are being fed automatic in a way and there is no risk of over or under watering them. This means that all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the plants without any maintenance from your end. Neat right!?
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