With only 1% of arable land in Singapore and limited good topsoil for growing vegetables, soilless vegetable production could potentially overcome our land scarcity constraints and be the future way of farming in Singapore. Local farmers have tested growing leafy greens using substrate culture (peat moss as growing media and fertilised by nutrient solution), where yields and vegetable growth were good but the taste was bland.
Dr Diana Chan and a team of researchers from Temasek Polytechnic are now developing a novel system that improves the taste of leafy vegetables grown in a soil-less culture, using a hydrogel which incorporates compatible microbes and hydroponic nutrient solution. Compared to hydroponics, hydrogel uses less water for supporting vegetable growth which in turn could be translated into cost savings for the farms.
As more households grow their own greens, the hydrogel technology can also be used for small-scale home or indoor gardening.