At Sustenir Agriculture (at Admiralty Street), the company that Martin Lavoo and Benjamin Swan founded in 2013, being green means more than growing greens vertically in whatever space you have (yes, everyone is doing that now) and being part of the farm-to-table movement (yes, this too).
It means they – Martin, 29, half Dutch and half Chinese Singaporean, and Benjamin, 35, Australian – can innovate to fill a technology gap in agriculture, “the single most influential industry that needs increasing amounts of food”. More food requires more water and energy to grow. The innovation, a patented infrastructure tech designed by Benjamin (he was the project manager for the construction of MBS Skypark), is in an 8,000 sq ft office/indoor farm parked on the fourth floor of an industrial building. A climate-controlled, lab-like environment, it allows the two to 1) grow non-native veggies like kale 24/7, sell it cheaper and fresher with a much smaller carbon footprint (Admiralty Street to any part of Singapore is less guilt-inducing than, say, from Australia to here); and 2) “produce perfect specimens of crops that are not genetically modified and have no exposure to soil, chemicals, pesticides, pollutants and dirt”, says Martin. “We even filter the air and water before they enter our facility to remove any contact with heavy metals from the atmosphere – all to ensure we not only grow the healthiest products, but also the cleanest and most reliable.” The facility, no bigger than two basketball courts, is not even big by local standards, but according to them, “our yields per square foot make us the most productive controlled environment agriculture facility in Singapore, producing a harvest of more than 2.3 tonnes every month”, says Lavoo. That’s the weight of a full-grown black rhino.
HOW TO SHOP FOR, KEEP, AND ENJOY YOUR GREENS
Martin and Benjamin give tips on the best ways to get the most out of your – and their – veggies.
• Don’t buy loose-leaf greens (such as kale, spinach, arugula) which are browning and drying at the ends of their stems. The latter = aged produce. “They have been idling in high temperatures during transit and will not last long even in the fridge after.”
• Do seal fresh greens in the fridge to keep them fresher for longer. Veggies like kale wilt much faster when exposed to too much oxygen. “That’s why Sustenir’s salad bags have ziplocks.”
• The closer the food source, the fresher it is. “The shorter the distance, the less variable temperature storage it has had to endure.”
• Sustenir’s greens are best eaten raw. “Heat can cause serious degradation of nutritional properties in our produce. Try to eat our vegetables as raw/whole as possible. Their natural state provides all the vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants and phytochemicals we need to combat diseases and for optimum health.”
• Darker leaves = good for health. “The darker the green, the more chlorophyll it has, which equates to higher antioxidant and nutritional properties. Studies have shown that chlorophyll and its associated vitamins and minerals act as binders to cancercausing substances, reducing your body’s likelihood of absorbing them.”
Each kale seed starts life in a sponge-like holder and is bathed in red and blue LEDs for optimum photosynthesis.
WHERE TO GET SUSTENIR AGRICULTURE’S GREENS
They are served at:
• Salad Stop
• Da Paolo Group
• Les Amis Group
• Kith Cafe Group
• Tung Lok Group
• PS Cafe
• Honestbee, the online supermarket/ concierge service
• Eat Organic at 619H Bukit Timah Road
• Selected Cold Storage, Jasons and Market Place stores.