More Grows in the Garden than the Gardeners Sow: The Roots and Shoots of Social Agriculture in Singapore
Date : 25 Oct 2017
Time : 16:00 - 17:30
Venue : Asia Research Institute, Seminar Room
AS8 Level 4, 10 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore 119260
National University of Singapore @ KRC

Jointly organized by the Asian Urbanisms Cluster of Asia Research Institute, and Department of Architecture, National University of Singapore.



Dr Minna Valjakka, National University of Singapore


Ms Sarah Ichioka, Urbanist & Curator, Former Research Fellow at Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology, NParks, Singapore
Mr Bjorn Low, Edible Garden City, Singapore
Ms Ng Huiying, Foodscape Collective, Singapore









Who chooses to grow their own food in Singapore, and why? Gardeners may be motivated by the desire to access healthier, fresher produce, to meet their neighbours, beautify their housing estate, earn extra income or increase the food security of a nation that currently imports 90% of what it eats. What benefits and challenges arise from urban food growing projects in Singapore; what potentials (ecological, social, economic) and trade-offs are at stake? This seminar will set Singapore's civic agriculture scene in an international context before sharing lessons from the field, from community food growers involved in government-led programmes, independent initiatives, and social enterprises alike.

For further Reading

- Ichioka, Sarah. 2016. Food security and community bonding in a globalised city-state: The case for urban farming in Singapore. CITYGREEN, 12: 34-41.
- Tan, Leon H.H. and Neo, Harvey, 2009. "'Community in Bloom': Local Participation of Community Gardens in Urban Singapore". Local Environment, 14/6: 529-539.
- Neo, Harvey and Chua C. Y. Chua, 2017. "Beyond Inclusion and Exclusion: Community Gardens as Spaces of Responsibility". Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 107/3: 666-681.
- Ng Huiying. Connecting Growers and Chefs


Sarah Ichioka is always curious about the cultural dynamics and social potentials of public spaces. Born in California and educated in New Haven and London, Sarah's career path so far has wound its way between public policy, architecture, research, curation, editorial and non-profit leadership. In the course of this journey she’s been honoured with Fellowship of the Royal Institute of British Architects and the British Council / Clore Cultural Leadership programme, and as of one of the Global Public Interest Design 100. Sarah served as Director of The Architecture Foundation (London) for nearly six years before she relocated to Asia in 2014. She recently completed a two-year research fellowship investigating Singapore’s civic agriculture initiatives in an international context for the National Parks Board.

Ng Huiying explores links between urban agriculture, open/welcoming spaces for new imaginations of urban life, and community resilience. She has worked in non-profit and research work and is currently developing research on agricultural knowledge mobilities and collective governance in Southeast Asia, as a Master’s research candidate at the Department of Geography, National University of Singapore. She is part of the Foodscape Collective, a Singapore-based initiative that works to learn about and imagine different food systems. She is guided by ideas of ecological and activist citizenship, autonomy and human motivation, and works towards creating the social environments necessary to support these. She shares her work here.

Born and raised in tropical Singapore, Bjorn Low started his career as an online marketing specialist at the then BLUE Interactive, having completed his MBA prior to that. His stint in advertising brought him to London, where he worked on the global Debeers account as an Associate Business Director. It was during a particularly harsh winter that he realised something was missing in his life, and that working in the corporate sector was not something he wanted to continue doing. Bjorn quit his job, and for the next 3 years, travelled and worked on organic farms across Europe. Having obtained a diploma in Biodynamic Agriculture in East Sussex, Bjorn returned back to Singapore with the dream of combining his knowledge of farming and his business training. In 2012, Edible Gardens LLP was started with the hopes of building urban farms to help Singapore tackle its food security challenges. Today, Edible Garden City Pte Ltd employs a team of 12 full time staff members and is carving out its own niche in a new industry sector in Singapore, having built more than 30 food gardens for hotels, schools, F&B outlets, property developers and home gardens. We believe in educational initiatives to the general public, and to the youths, which we do so through public talks and workshops to educational institutions. In 2017, Edible Garden City opened their latest initiative, Citizen Farm.


Admission is free. We would greatly appreciate if you click on the "Register" button above to RSVP.


In recent years, the multifaceted forms of civic practices—ranging from participatory urbanism, to artistic interventions, and to street protests launched by activists—have become more prominent in Asian cities, attracting scholarly attention across different disciplines. The transformations in civil society have raised the following questions: What are the emerging challenges and contingencies the varied interest groups are facing? What kind of conflicts can arise during and after instances of civil activism, and how can these tensions be ameliorated? How can social engagement, practice and research be bridged together by, and for, different individuals and agencies? When does social engagement become perceived as civil activism?

This seminar series, jointly organized by Asian Urbanisms cluster (ARI) and the Department of Architecture, critically presents and examines the novel forms of civic practices that have manifested in the Asian urban context through a transdisciplinary framework. Bringing together academics, practitioners, students, and the general public interested in urban spatial strategies in relation to negotiate the formation and role of civil societies, the seminars seek to initiate discourse on the following themes: First, to explore how the varied stakeholders involved in civil society groups, including academics and educators, activists, artists, NGOs, NPOs, informal interest groups and community associations, political parties, and governmental organizations currently de/reconstruct the contextual and physical understanding of shared urban space in Asia. It is of interest to review the main goals of the novel civic practices, and the extent in which these aspirations are realised. Secondly, these seminars seek to articulate how stakeholders engage in the process of collaborative knowledge production through these practices. More importantly, the aim of the series is to conceptualise civic practices as a product of the distinctive trajectories of socio-economic development, spatial/cultural policies, and the structures of political governance in the Asian region. To reiterate, these seminars provide an overview on the distinctive challenges and opportunities that contemporary Asian cities pose for civil societies, and the kind of local and global characteristics that are emerging in these locales.


Asia Research Institute | Minna ValjakkaSonia Lam
Department of Architecture | Cho Im Sik & Lee Kah Wee

Contact Person(s)
Minghua TAY