Robinsons Offices, FarmTop take urban agri to new heights
MANILA, Philippines — Doing its share to help the country achieve food security while addressing environmental challenges, Robinsons Offices, one of the country’s leading providers of quality, flexible workspaces, has partnered with lifestyle brand FarmTop for the development of “sky farms” or soilless vegetable gardens on building roof-decks.
The joint initiative promotes technologically enhanced but sustainable agriculture. It also adheres to the “Farm-to-Plate” concept where produce are grown as close as possible to where they are consumed, typically within a 5-kilometer radius, to minimize the carbon footprint that traditional farm-to-market routes would typically entail.
The project envisions the setup of strategically located sky farms atop office buildings around the country, where crops are cultivated through hydroponics or soilless farming in a controlled environment. The method, which also does away with conventional pesticides, is also described as “post-organic” as it reduces the risk of attacks from soil-based pests and weeds.
Company officials led by JG Summit president and chief executive officer Lance Gokongwei formally unveiled the project’s first rooftop farm—and enjoyed its first harvest—on Oct. 10 at Robinsons Cyberscape Alpha in Ortigas Center, Pasig City.
Each rooftop farm would be designed to produce as much as five tons of vegetables a month, said FarmTop president and CEO Danny Dy, and that the yield could hopefully find a market—condominiums, offices, schools, hotels and restaurants—within the vicinity.
“By tying up with FarmTop, we are able to offer alternative means to healthy eating. We can provide the space, expand the market, and create jobs for urban farmers,” said Jericho Go, Robinsons Offices senior vice president and general manager.
Robinsons Offices is a developer of premium, sustainable, and future-ready offices under Robinsons Land Corp.
FarmTop (Farm-to-Plate) is an enterprise and a lifestyle brand that promotes urban agriculture, utilizing rooftops to address the growing demand for fresh produce while reducing dependence on farmlands that are on a rapid decline due to climate change and wide-scale urbanization.
The partnership aims to raise awareness about a technology-based method of producing food. By cultivating seeds in trays and racks, soilless farming optimizes space and allows for more yield per square meter and a shorter growth time.
Making farming sexier
Proponents hope that it would encourage the younger generation to become farm scientists by bridging traditional practices with modern innovations. “The goal is to control all our farm environment through [the] smartphone,” Dy said. “We want to make farming more sexy.”
FarmTop’s approach, for example, involves educating farmers about cutting-edge techniques. Dy recalled how his company recruited some villagers displaced by the 2017 Marawi siege, bringing them to Manila to learn about hydroponics. In a related initiative, a number of janitors and waiters who lost their jobs at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic were hired as riders for FarmTop deliveries.
“We want to veer away from just being a vegetable supplier,” said Dy. “Our first advocacy is to rejuvenate the agriculture industry by producing more food as we increase the farms on roof-decks. The second is providing a healthy alternative. On our FarmTop website, chefs and regular customers have shared ways on how healthy eating can actually be delicious.”
Robinsons Land, on the other hand, has consistently supported campaigns and organizations promoting food security. One of them is Rise Against Hunger, an international relief network catering to the poor and most vulnerable with the aim of ending global hunger by 2030.