SDG11: Rooftop Republic is integrating urban farming into the city's lifestyle
"Our vision is to revolutionize the food system and transform the relationship people have with their food. "
Andrew Tsui, co-founder of the Rooftop Republic.
Tell us about the Rooftop Republic Urban Farming.
“Rooftop Republic is a social enterprise aiming to achieve a more sustainable food eco-system through urban farming. Through urban farm set up, design, management and education, we aim to transform the relationship people have with their food in many of the most densely populated cities, including Hong Kong and China.
Our mission revolves around the potential of urban farming as an instrument of change, transforming not just the way we produce and consume food but transforming community livelihoods.
Rooftop Republic has been recognized by the Hong Kong SAR Government with "The Outstanding Social Enterprise (Meritorious) Award" and "Outstanding Innovation Award" at the Social Enterprise Awards 2017 and is an awardee of the DBS Social Enterprise Grant 2018.
Since our establishment in 2015, our team has transformed 68,000 square feet of idling urban spaces into 61 productive landscapes ranging from urban farms to vertical greens, indoor farming, and agri-tech developments. The clients and partners we work with include real estate companies, corporates, F&Bs, hotels, schools, and individuals. Our clients include Swire Properties, Cathay Pacific, PricewaterhouseCoopers, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, local and international schools and we have been featured in local and worldwide publications including the BBC, The New Yorker, SCMP and Monocle.”
How you started?
“As born and bred city-people ourselves, my Co-Founders and I realized how disconnected we all are from our food sources as well as on the impact that food has on our environment, our health and our communities. Only by addressing this disconnection – this broken relationship – will we be able to change people’s mindsets and behavior and help them make more informed decisions about their food.
We believe that when people are involved in the process of growing their own food, they will be able to re-build this relationship with their food, get to know their farmers, connect with their local community and help to bring about a more sustainable, healthier and inclusive food system.
We looked around and realized there was a huge untapped potential within the city itself – while we were surrounded by the dense build-up of concrete and skyscrapers, there were many under-utilized spaces on the roofs of our buildings.
According to the latest research by Matthew Pryor, an HKU architecture professor, there are 6 million square meters of rooftop space that could be suitable for rooftop farming and currently, not even 1% is being used. This is where the opportunity of bringing farming into the city lies – not only are we converting these underutilized into green and productive spaces but also as a platform where we can bring communities together.”
You participated in 1MillionStartups Global Conference 2019, sponsored by our partner GIN. How did you like it in Vienna?
“Vienna was a great experience!
It was a great opportunity to learn more about the European start-up and impact eco-system;
We were very inspired by the start-ups from all stages and industries sharing their growth story;
We were also very grateful to GIN, 1MillionStartUps and Impact Hub Vienna for connecting us to related start-ups with similar goals for us to learn from them.
It was the first time for our team to visit Vienna, the most liveable city in the world, and with our start-up goal of making our cities more liveable, it was a rare opportunity to learn from the best practices of the city.
We were extremely appreciative of the hospitality provided by the local Viennese, the organizers and the collaborative mindset of the fellow social entrepreneurs at the event.”
What are you currently working on?
“We have the following initiative:
Rooftop Republic Academy
The Rooftop Republic Academy seeks to professionalize and build the nascent urban farming sector in Hong Kong by providing comprehensive and hands-on urban farming training programs to nurture a new generation of farmers. We have launched the first cohort in 2019, and we aim to train up to 100 new farmers by the end of 2020.
Today, we continue to press on with the mission of transforming cities to be more sustainable and liveable through urban farming with the 5G pillars framework developed:
1. Green our cities with communities,
2. Grow food more locally and sustainably,
3. Go Circular with our lifestyle to drive change,
4. Groom generations of urban farmers
5. Germinate an ecosystem via collaborations
It is unfortunately timely as the shadow of COVID 19 is threatening the health, life, economy and international relations the globe in “lockdown”. It is also a trying time with social distancing and mistrust displayed among communities and nations fighting for own “survival” amidst the pressing need to be even more inclusive and united to be effective towards such emergency response.
It reflects blatantly on the vulnerability and volatility we are facing as one race: the human race. With increasing interconnectivity and mobility, it would be naive to even think that self-interest can save us. It also casts some light on the importance of building relational capital and resilience among communities as the hope for our continue sustainable development.„ concluded Mr. Tsui.
You can reach out to RooftopRepublic team here:
Facebook: Rooftop Republic Urban Farming
Read this interesting article about green Hong Kong.