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September 20, 2011

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'Roof farms' start to take root at office buildings

ENJOYING the vegetables people grow themselves is no longer a dream for urban residents now that locals can participate in farm work on the roofs of downtown buildings.

As the city is promoting the greening of rooftops, an environmental protection program is starting to turn frequently seen roof gardens into small-scale "roof farms." It targets the roofs of office buildings, where employees can easily climb up to take care of the vegetables and fruit they grow before they harvest them.

The first trial, on the roof of a four-floor building in Pujiang Town and covering 100 square meters, has already produced batches of vegetables and fruit, such as tomato, cucumber and eggplant. The facility is operated by a company, and its employees are the "farmers."

Weng Qianchun, the company manager, told Shanghai Daily yesterday that they would pick up some mature vegetables in the morning and cook them for lunch. "The employees are fighting for the opportunities to water the vegetables and collect them. It's funny," Weng said.

Huang Ke, the program leader, said they came up with the idea after seeing so many free roofs, and believed it could become a new lifestyle for urban residents.

Companies are offering the rooftop areas for the benefit of workers, allowing them to do the basic work at their leisure and bring home the vegetables they grow. Huang said the roof farm really goes beyond agriculture, giving employees the opportunity to relax in the greenery, perhaps with a cup of coffee, while taking in a view of the city.

Next week, a second and larger roof farm will be put into operation atop a building at the Fudan Science Park Innovation Center.

The team has bigger ambitions, planning 10,000-square-meter roof farms by the end of next year.

In addition to the companies, Huang encourages individuals to rent a piece of such a farm.

"If they are too busy to take care of it, we can have professionals help people take care of the vegetables and deliver the mature products to their homes," Huang said.


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