Lionel Wong (left) and Terence Tan, co-founders of the Upgrown Farming Company, with one of their vertical farming installations.
Making Our Greens Great Again
by Ashraf Aris
Growing up, TP’s Biotechnology graduate, Terence Tan, was not a fan of vegetables.
However, his mind-set changed during his overseas stint in Australia, pursuing a degree in Marine Science and Aquaculture.
“The vegetables in Australia taste nothing like the ones we are used to here. They are crunchier and sweeter,” Terence said.
“When I came back home during school holidays, I went to a few supermarkets to find Australian produce but was disappointed to learn that although they came from the same place, it didn’t have the same taste.”
That’s because the taste gets ‘lost’ during the time it takes to import these vegetables to Singapore.
This lost time is what Upgrown – an agrotechnology company Terence co-founded in 2013 together with his fellow TP Biotechnology alumnus, Lionel Wong – aims to cut out in order for us to really enjoy the taste of fresh greens.
“It’s just common sense that the best way to consume vegetables is at its peak freshness,” Lionel said.
Upgrown specialises in vertical and indoor farming solutions, and supplies applications such as growing systems, auto-dosing and LED grow lighting in Asia.
But isn’t soil necessary for growing?
Not so, according to these entrepreneurial urban farmers.
“Soil is just a medium, which hosts the necessary micro-organisms to support growth. Upgrown’s tech isolates these micro-organisms and incorporates it into its system,” Terence explained.
“Take Yakult as an analogy – it contains the probiotic, Lactobacillus, which promotes digestive health,” added Lionel.
“Plants need this good bacteria too – and using a controlled environment, Upgrown’s vertical farming solutions can grow produce that is on par or better than those found in traditional farms.”
In fact, by using a controlled environment, Upgrown’s farming solutions are able to grow crops that are not native to Singapore, such as the superfood, kale, and mizuna, a Japanese vegetable that has a unique aftertaste similar to wasabi.
Today, Upgrown has clients across the world, including the Middle East, India, China, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
Congratulations guys, TP is proud of you!