He runs a rooftop parking lot farm in S’pore, selling 16,000 packages of vegetables a month


Staring into the distance while in Tampines and you could only see a strange green plot at the top of the multi-storey car park.

The vegetables you consume every day – xiao bai cai, kailan, bayam – could also be grown in that parking lot.

About four tons or 4,000 kg of vegetables, which is almost 16,000 packages of greens, are harvested per month from this “improvised” farm.

It is grown and managed by 35-year-old Singaporean entrepreneur Nicholas Goh and his team from Nature’s International Commodity (NIC).

parking on the roof of the tampines farm
The farm is surrounded by HDB buildings in Tampines / Image by Nicholas Goh

Nicholas delivers his vegetables to local distributors in Singapore. They are sold slightly cheaper than the market price and NTUC FairPrice, he claims.

Since the farm started eight months ago, the business has been good, selling most of the vegetables they harvest.

Nicholas was one of the few to win a tender in May 2020 to create roof farms in public parking lots. The move to find alternative agricultural land in Singapore’s limited mainland is part of the country’s strategy to meet its 30 to 30 goal, which is to produce 30 percent of its food needs locally by 2030.

parking on the roof of the tampines farm
Lush green vegetables from Nikola’s urban farm Nature’s International Commodity / Image Credit: Nicholas Goh

He was a mango grower in Cambodia

Unknown to many, Nicholas is actually a successful entrepreneur in Cambodia. He runs a 72-hectare farmland in Cambodia, almost the size of 140 football fields, which sells mostly mangoes.

“I also have a waste management factory that converts food waste into organic fertilizer. Covid-19 has affected almost all business sectors in the world. Although we are an essential service, we still face problems such as logistics, border closures and lack of raw material stocks due to blocked distribution channels, ”said Nicholas, explaining why he is currently based in Singapore.

manga farm in Cambodia
Nicole’s farm in Cambodia is the size of 140 football fields / Image by Nicholas Goh

Border controls influenced Nicholas to run his Cambodian business last year, prompting him to launch NIC and turn to serving local customers.

“We have grown these vegetables because of the local consumer habits and requirements set by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) for all food farms. We pick vegetables weekly, “he said.

Leaving school became an entrepreneur

Nicholas was a student from Express Stream, but left his studies at 16 years old.

He reasoned that he had a strong desire to help the vulnerable and delinquents, while he served the youth service in the church during mission trips to Cambodia.

“Even in those years, I had an innate passion for disadvantaged people, and entrepreneurship continued to pierce my desire to seek solutions to make this world a better place through business.”

“But I soon realized that I had to go back to school to finish my education if I wanted to get to know the business world better.”

nicholas goh parking on the roof of the farm tampines
Nicholas left school before returning after a journey of self-discovery / Image Credit: Nicholas Goh

At the age of 18, Nicholas returned to Singapore to serve in the national service, and then decided to continue his studies. He graduated in electrical engineering from Nanyang Polytechnic and soon returned to his life mission.

“Through many school trips to Cambodia as a volunteer, my compassion for this country and poor farmers has grown. I eventually moved to the country as a humble 26-year-old farmer. I lived and worked as a Khmer farmer, like everyone else there. ”

parking on the roof of the tampines farm
The parking lot farm produces four tons of vegetables a month or 16,000 packets of greens / Image Image: Nicholas Goh

After long hours of plowing dirt and waste with his hands, Nicholas discovered a successful formula for creating environmentally friendly organic fertilizers — a key ingredient that gave him the strength to develop TWIN Agritech’s Cambodian business.

TWIN Agri is the largest supplier of organic fertilizers in Cambodia, serving up to 800 to 900 tons of fertilizers per month. It has grown tenfold in the last four years.

He also claimed that this fertilizer acted as a “magic formula” for growing his crops in Tampines.

Agriculture in Singapore

The Tampines car park farm grows vegetables like xiao bai cai, kailan and bayam to meet the consumer habits of the locals.

It also follows the requirements set by the SFA for all food farms, such as keeping the farm clean and sanitary at all times.

parking on the roof of the tampines farm
Urban agriculture uses soil technology and relies on sensors to identify problems / Image by Nicholas Goh

According to Nicholas, the methods of urban agriculture are different from traditional agriculture. His company uses soil technology — organic organic fertilizers — to grow vegetables.

Nicholas also uses sensors to help identify potential crop problems, which he says help save him time and money.

“I believe in a strategic agricultural solution, and that is to work small, manage well and be strategically located. Urban agriculture defines it as a farm because it supplies and supplements the needs of the residents, ”he said.

Asked how he copes with unexpected rains or floods in Singapore, Nicholas said the rain in the country is actually relatively consistent.

“Rain and shine are part of the agricultural process. We breed caterpillars and creepers to block them from the harsh sun and rain. ”

Local expansion plans

Nicholas plans to work on his companies in Singapore and Cambodia after the borders reopen, although it is unlikely that this will happen any time soon, given the revival of Covid-19 cases around the world.

The farmer said that the sale of local vegetables in Singapore is good, and almost everything is sold every month.

Driven by strong sales, it plans to expand gradually in the country as vegetables offer competitive prices to the local product market.

“We are planning to expand, but there are limitations – mostly (in finding) people who are willing to work under the sun. We will be expanding soon after we tighten our model and business strategy. ”

parking on the roof of the tampines farm
It is difficult to find workers in Singapore who want to work on a farm / Image Credit: Nicholas Goh

In fact, he was not a rose bed like an urban farmer in Singapore, because growing on the roof is a new concept.

“These are always complaints that lead to the actions of various state bodies. It’s hard to have the best of both worlds where on the one hand you have food security and food supply, but on the other hand, you’re afraid of insects, smells and dirt, ”Nicholas said.

“Agriculture is not a clean job, nor is it for the elderly because it is very hard.”

Asked if he would be interested in opening the farm to the public and as a public attraction, the proud farmer shakes his head as he protects his crops and strictly adheres to SFA guidelines.

“We generally control public visits for several reasons — for biosafety reasons, where we don’t want the public to transmit viruses that can cause problems in our plants, as well as the recent restrictions on Covid-19. ”

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Featured image: Nicholas Goh

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