By Foo Ming Li
Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow launched Kebun Kita(r), a self-sustaining community urban farm in Penang Digital Library 1 on 14 September 2020. Kebun Kita(r) is a pilot project initiated by the Penang government to provide Penang citizens organic vegetables that are free from chemical pesticides and fertilisers in line with the vision of Penang2030 – a smarter, greener, and intelligent Penang.
The total dimension of the urban farm is less than 2,000sq ft area and is now being utilised to grow several types of vegetables such as red spinach, bok choy (pak choy), cabbage, eggplants, and long beans.. 60 percent of the vegetables is given to the B40 household income groups while the remaining 40 percent is sold commercially for profit.
The urban farm is a collaboration between Chief Minister Incorporated (CMI), Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI), and Think City. The Faculty of Arts, Computing, and Industry Creative from UPSI provided the Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, while Think City funded RM35,000 to the project.
Penang Digital Library Administrative Officer, Nurul Hasliza Binti Hasanuddin said the community urban farm consists of 10 raised beds, 16 aquaponics towers, one saltwater tilapia tank, and one fresh water tilapia tank. Hasliza adds the IoT sensors are used to monitor the water pH level and the ammonia level in the fish tanks, and set the water sprinkler timer to water the vegetables.
“There are some manual work required in the urban farm such as loosening the soil and harvesting the vegetables, but the use of IoT sensors can reduce some of the manual work. For instance, timer for the water sprinkler to water the vegetables and also monitor the pH as well as ammonia level of the water in the fish tanks could be set via the sensor technology,” she said
Regarding their future plans, Hasliza is hoping to organise a volunteer programme every week for people who are interested and keen to contribute their time to the community urban farm. To the newbies, there is a seminar to train people on using the IoT sensors to manage their farms.
“Although the self-sustaining community urban farm is a pilot project, it has already received many invitations for collaboration to develop new community urban farms while some are asking about the volunteering programme for the urban farm,” she said.
Besides, N.V. Subbarow, an Education Officer from the Consumer Association of Penang (CAP) said the association encourages the public to practise growing their own vegetables for various reasons.
“During the MCO, vulnerable groups of people such as the elderly are unable to buy vegetables and needs since they are not allowed to come out of the house due to them having a high-risk of Covid-19 infection.
“As for the younger generations, they are facing problems when buying groceries as they don’t know which vegetables to buy for their family,” Subbarow explained the dynamics of the issues at hand.
So, he started an online class teaching the volunteers, guiding them on how to grow their vegetables in their home using basic household items like plastic milk bottles.
Moreover, Subbarow said the community farm built by the government enables the younger generations to gain some knowledge on agriculture when they visit the urban farm. He also adds that the community urban farm can help foster closer relationships among the volunteers of the urban farm.