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The Future of Farming is on our Rooftop! Transforming Farms, Cities, and People with Urban Rooftop Greenhouses

Pursuing prosperity by making fresh vegetables accessible and affordable for the general public by revolutionizing the farm concept.

Photo of Allan Andu
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

GG Farms (dba Greengold Farms Pampanga)

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

www.greengoldfarms.net

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Angeles City

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Philippines

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

All metro areas in the Philippines including Angeles City/Clark/San Fernando in the province of Pampanga with a combined area of 442.01 km².

What country is your selected Place located in?

Philippines

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

The Philippines is our home. She faces immense challenges to overcome, now and especially in the future. The largest English-speaking member of the South East Asian community, the Philippines has been plagued by chronic underdevelopment and political instability. Millions of Filipino families have left the country to settle around the world and while they have sought greener pastures and were able to thrive and succeed, sadly the state of the nation left behind did not improve as much as one would've liked.

We are based in Angeles City in the province of Pampanga because of geographical advantages, modern infrastructure, and the connection to American, Spanish, Korean, and Chinese influences of the past and present. The diversity and rich history of Pampanga has transcended into the culinary arts as Pampanga is known as the culinary capital of the Philippines.

There's a lot of work ahead of us to improve the state of our place. Especially considering our selected place consists of a combined population of roughly 1M, not including the multitude of informal settler families not accounted for in the census. We are cognizant of the power of private grassroots movements to spark a more effective societal and economic change than relying on government institutions and public policy. So in light of this, we've passionately been driven to spearhead solutions for our food security issues and influence others to join us in our mission.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

The Philippines is a country of contrasts. On the visible side, it is a stunningly beautiful country. Millions of tourists visit our beautiful islands annually in search for the best beaches, rich marine life, and stunning landscapes. Aside from islands, our volcanoes and highland areas attract trekkers and explorers seeking dramatic vistas and sunsets. 

But on the less visible side, the Philippines is plagued by chronic underdevelopment and suffers from the systemic effects of an increasing population in a country with very limited arable land. 

Our population is estimated at 108 million (2019), of which roughly 38% live in the capital of Manila and surrounding provinces. The minimum wage ranges from $4.8 per day in rural areas to $8.7 per day in the capital region. There is a major gap between the wealthy and the middle & lower class citizenry. Income distribution is heavily unbalanced. Many of us leave the country in search of overseas employment opportunities with higher salaries. 

The Philippines has deep rooted cultural traditions and is currently struggling to transition these traditions into the demands of the modern world. We work longer hours, face long daily commutes, and spend less time eating home-cooked dinners with the family.

On the farms, the average Filipino farmer is getting older. The average age of our farmers is between 56 - 60 yrs old. And while around a third of our population is involved in agriculture, they also comprise the lowest income group. No surprise then that the goal of a rural family is to send their most capable children to school to pursue a higher paying career in the city. Few, if any, return to the farm to continue with food production.

Financial problems have resulted in a low average life expectancy. According to 2018 data from the WHO, male life expectancy is at 66 yrs old, while females 71 yrs old. This is mainly attributed to a poor lifestyle that includes a poor diet regimen, lack of financial capacity to afford health care, overall poor health-related decision-making, and lack of a positive vision for the future. 

One of the factors contributing to a low average life expectancy is the (over)consumption of rice, sugary drinks, and salty foods. It is essentially part and parcel of our cultural tradition. The pairing of fried or grilled meat and soy sauce or vinegar usually comprises a standard meal followed by sweet starchy desserts and a sugary softdrink. Daily consumption of fresh vegetables is not a priority due to cost constraints and lack of forward-thinking health awareness. 

The impending health problems as a result of a regular dietary intake prescribed by our cultural identity as rice and meat eaters puts a strain on the healthcare system and on the families struggling to pay rising medical costs for afflictions that could have been prevented by making healthier choices.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

442

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

1000000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

The most pressing issues facing our food system are: 

FOOD SECURITY

We're at the convergence of the problems of an expanding impoverished population and the troubles of exhausting our food production capacities. This is manifested in the lack of accessibility and affordability of daily salad vegetables. Our current path is regrettably unsustainable towards the positive long-term health and wellness of our society.

People living in the cities primarily eat rice with meat and the few big industry players have invested substantially into poultry and pork production. This has affected our industrial farming complex, as farmers readily choose to contract-grow implements for feeds rather than grow diversified vegetables.

Our fish industry has suffered from slow adoption of sustainable production methods while our best catch is exported to higher paying markets. And without surprise, both meat and fish products have seen skyrocketing prices while the size and quality is ever-decreasing.

Just recently we were afflicted with the African Swine Flu, Asian Bird Flu, and fishkills, symptomatic of scrupulous production practices. Simply put, the industrial farming complex is more interested in profit potential than about society’s wellness.

PARADIGM SHIFT IN CONSUMER MINDSET

Much of our fresh vegetables comes from the far highland regions in the country and transported to the metro areas. By the time the produce reaches the consumer, the price will have multiplied from its farm-gate price. The distance between farm-to-fork allows for a long supply chain with very little value added services in between. The consumer bears the brunt of the cost while leaving the farmer with minimal profit.

These inefficiencies drive consumers to cheap, rice-and-meat-centric, fast food. Not a big surprise given the meager daily income of the majority of the working class. 

Our franchise fast food industry has exploded over the last 20 years. These chains are packed every day with people eating cheap, processed foods low in nutritional value.

With a lack of financial capacity and preparedness for health related emergencies, the average Filipino needs to adopt a healthier diet. Not only to expand the average life expectancy, but to increase the general quality of life.

The Philippines’ population has effectively doubled in the last 35 years which could double again by 2050. An expansion of a largely unhealthy citizenry is a frightening prospect.

CLIMATE

Our farmers are constantly subject to the risks associated with our tropical climate. The Philippines is hit frequently by typhoons during the monsoon season. Heavy rains and strong winds tend to decimate crops and long hot and dry spells lowers profit margins due to increased use of irrigation pumps.

Controlling the growing conditions and mitigating potential damages is tantamount to having sustainable and predictable production.

So what does 2050 look like if we continue the current course? The challenges we face today will be compounded by 2050. We will reach way past the point of unsustainability. The reality of widespread poverty of the majority will overburden the minority gains in socio-economic progress. 

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Greengold Farms aims to address these challenges by revolutionizing the farm concept through the implementation of urban rooftop greenhouses using innovative grow systems

Our greenhouse design is engineered to withstand adverse climate risks while adequately dealing with the hot and humid weather in order for our plants to grow optimally using inexpensive yet innovative products and materials. This ensures year around stable supply of output, which is a necessary component of securing the food supply.

Urban grow systems range from hydroponics, aquaponics, to organic setups which can all be used to great effect. With the focus on "less is more", the grower can continue to innovate different designs using locally available materials to suit his/her needs. More so, controlled urban grow systems can produce repeatable results, which then can be taught to others seeking to develop their own greenhouse.

While large commercial greenhouse operations cost a lot of money, takes specialized knowledge, and runs into oversupply spoilage issues, the smaller community based urban rooftop greenhouses can produce exactly what the local demand requires. A cluster of community based urban greenhouses can work together on maximizing the comparative advantages of specialized production by specializing in their own crops while complementing the competitors' crops.

Due to the reduced distance of farm to table, the output of the urban rooftop greenhouse can directly be used by nearby restaurants which can then be sold at a much lower menu price and the subsequent savings are ultimately passed down to the consumer – making daily salads much more affordable and allowing chefs to create more diverse vegetable dishes, thereby contributing to the reduction in demand for franchise fast food rice-and-meat dishes while reshaping our culture of food.

Once all the factors are in place to secure the production and supply stability and there exists a widespread availability of healthy vegetable options, the consumer can readily take advantage of this benefit. People tend to make the better choice when it meets their budgets. 

In our Vision, we see ourselves making a sustained impact on the health and well-being of our people, environment, and overall prosperity. We have been instrumental in sharing the knowledge of the benefits of greenhouse cultivation in our communities. In the future, we envision the Philippines as a premier cultivator of fresh vegetables using affordable greenhouse technologies.

Despite the negative current circumstances, it is with bright optimism that we work tirelessly to promote our message in 2020 to create a better 2050. Our food system relies on consumer demand to dictate the industry direction. #HealthIsWealth is a universal message that leads to inter-generational prosperity. When even the most marginalized member of society thinks about making healthier food choices, we are moving in the right direction. 

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Our Vision recognizes that prosperity is only attainable when people have embraced healthy living conditions. Striving for healthy living conditions affects our viewpoint in taking care of ourselves, each other, and the environment and influences us to make wise long term decisions for our personal well-being. 

Urban rooftop greenhouses reduce the cost of eating healthy, by removing traders and eliminating transportation costs. One less smoke-belching truck on the road is a positive step for everyone in the pursuit of healthy living conditions.

Through healthy eating, we can expand our life expectancy. Having a longer term view of life persuades a person to make better financial decisions, thereby contributing to the alleviation of problems associated with poverty. 

A healthier-eating society is a more productive society. Millions of employed workers can perform at their sustained best while the under-employed and unemployed stand a better chance to be more productive.

Healthy eating leads to lower health risks and therefore lower medical and pharmaceutical costs. This is especially important to address in the Philippines, where medical costs are expensive and insurance coverage is limited. 

Busy working families can feed their children with affordable nutrition which will aid in performance improvement in school, setting up the building blocks for sustained future prosperity.

Our Vision opens up the market for a new industry in healthier food options. Entrepreneurs will have an opportunity to set up restaurants offering healthier meals at lower prices, which is currently unattainable.

The sight of urban rooftop greenhouses in busy city centers provides visceral appeal to uplift our well-being. As more drab concrete jungles are developed, it becomes more appealing to be surrounded by nature's verdant colors.

Prosperity is not just about financial gain, it is fundamentally about the general uplifting of the physical, mental, and spiritual realms of a person or place.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Our Vision is one that seeks to transform the skyline of metropolitan city centers with the implementation of rooftop greenhouses utilizing hydroponics and organic grow systems. As more and more people seek prosperity away from rural areas into urban centers, the need for affordable vegetables is important to maintain the health and well-being of our citizens

We believe strongly in our Vision, so we've built a demo to prove that the concept works. Our greenhouses are designed to withstand the rigorous elements of our tropical climate. The growing systems we’ve designed are optimized to meet the plants’ needs in the face of our tropical climate. For example, we’ve been able to grow different varieties of lettuce in a lowland hot environment that normally would come from distant highlands where it is considerably cooler. 

Our growing system is efficient in the delivery of nutrients and we’ve designed a water recirculating system to irrigate all the crops. Water consumption is drastically lower in recirculating grow systems compared to open field crops. Additionally, our greenhouse features app-based technologies that automate the irrigation and environmental controls. 

Management of the greenhouse is based on real-time monitoring data. The amount of labor involved in operating a greenhouse is much less compared to open field planting, due in part to our ergonomic design of the grow systems. 

Our introduction of greenhouses for vegetable cultivation has attracted a new breed of interested farmers/growers – younger, educated, and keen to learn and contribute. 

The produce from our greenhouse is directly marketed, sold, and delivered to nearby restaurants. This allows for lower menu prices of salads and cooked dishes, making a nutritious meal affordable for any student, retiree, or working class person. 

So if every multi-story commercial or residential building in metro city centers in the Philippines deploys rooftop greenhouses, this will spur a whole new industry demand for certified welders and contractors, architects and engineers, licensed agriculturalists, plant scientists, chemists and biologists, nutritionists, and technology and hydroponics experts. This leads to a creation of jobs in both service and manufacturing sectors. Schools and colleges can expand their curriculum into the many different studies of hydroponics, technology, and plant science in greenhouse applications. 

And on an environmental note, the plants in the greenhouses have the ability to use up rampant CO2 emissions from vehicles in traffic congested city centers and results in giving us all fresher air to breathe

Greenhouse cultivation does not require the application of pesticides/herbicides which not only ensures the consumption of safe non-toxic vegetables but also helps regenerate our soils and protect our native insect & pollinator colonies

On top of this, the aesthetics of more greenery in our concrete jungles contributes to our spiritual, mental well-being and overall happiness

Our Vision is bold yet practical. It concerns addressing the multi-faceted problems of our future: population growth, density of metro areas, wide income disparity between social classes, high cost of nutritious food versus purchasing power, medical needs in an overburdened healthcare system, lack of job opportunities and industrialization, social and financial pressures towards pervasive poverty, our ageing farmers and the scarcity of arable land, and climate and environmental considerations. 

In our Vision, we see a better future ahead. We see a community of urban growers fulfilling the farm-to-table concept. We see a more technologically advanced agricultural community tasked with safekeeping our food security. In 2050, we envision prosperity for all people of all ages and we anticipate a positive development of a country that needs to believe in a better future.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

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6 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Spam
Photo of Benjamin Fahrer
Team

Awesome work!
I would love to know what you think of our project and some of the rooftop farming we have done. Curious if you ever worked with a more soil based system?
what are some of the main challenges you face and what are the biggest problems you face with your current operation?
Keep growing for it!

Spam
Photo of Ekaterina Egorova
Team

Hi Allan Andu 

We’ve developed this Pocket Guide to support you through the final days of wrapping up your submission.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1o8WGMus6-V8GywWdlNwmCpk7I1fMVzcQ/view

This will give you the most important bullet points to keep in mind to successfully submit your Vision.

Go ahead, review the check-list and final words of advice before the deadline.

Spam
Photo of Julian Keith Loren
Team

Hi Allan Andu 
I'm very excited about your vision and I also love the Philippines! I lived there for a very short time as a young child and was able to take my own children to visit 3 parts of Luzon, Mindoro, and Palawan islands a few years ago.

I wanted to bring a few things to your attention that might help you achieve faster scale at lower cost:
1. An alternative to hydroponics:
Erik Cutter of Alegria Farms started with hydroponics but has then switched to super soils in "grow socks." This is a much simpler and cheaper system than hydroponics and it is also relatively lightweight (which is an important consideration for rooftops). You can find more about Erik's work here : http://alegriafresh.com/ His work is also featured beautifully in the documentary 'The Need to Grow.'

2. Handling rooftop loads:
Concerning rooftop loads, you might also consider bamboo bridge-like trusses to distribute the load of the grow operation to the exterior walls of the building. I've detailed those kinds of rooftop grow solutions in my proposal. I called them "perching permaculture penthouses." I specified bamboo as a material, even though we have far less bamboo in the San Francisco Bay Area than you have in the Philippines.

Let's green the rooftops and feed our urban neighbors!

With wishes for an abundant and delicious future,
Julian

Spam
Photo of Allan Andu
Team

Hi Julian, thank you very much for your feedback. Love the SoxxBoxx concept, we're doing something similar for certain crops using containers, cocopeat, and African Night Crawler worms to help us lower our dependence on fertilizers. Regarding the rooftop loads, we do indeed anchor to the perimeter walls/columns to relieve the burden on the slab. Bamboo, while cost-effective, is unfortunately not an option to us because we have yearly typhoons and storm surges so we had to use more permanent materials. Thanks again for reading thru our Vision and thank you for your support for our goals in the Philippines. Maybe we could collaborate one day!

Allan

Spam
Photo of Itika Gupta
Team

Hi Allan Andu   Welcome to the Prize Community!
It is lovely to see such a detailed out Vision for Philippines that is looking at closing the gaps in access to healthy food among people of the country. I especially loved how you described the place and its people.
What would the food system in Philippines look like in 2050?
How might you evolve your Vision to make it more inclusive and systemic for your local food system and its numerous stakeholders? You can find some guiding principles on Systems Thinking and inspiration in the Vision Prize Toolkit in Chapter 3 under Tools of Transformation. Here is the link to the Prize Toolkit: http://bit.ly/2X4ZxQk

Look forward to seeing your Vision evolve through the coming weeks.

Spam
Photo of Allan Andu
Team

Hi Itika, thank you for the feedback. We're firm believers in our Vision and we're hard at work to lay the groundwork for an early transition to offset food security issues in 2050 (or perhaps earlier!). We're looking forward to overcome the challenges and ushering in a new industry of urban rooftop hydroponics greenhouses in the Philippines. Our people, customers, vendors, and other stakeholders depend on us to lead the way forward. Best Regards.