10 questions with Young Harvester
- Thank you so much for sharing your story with our readers. Can you give us a brief introduction about what Young Harvester is?
Young Harvester is an international youth-led organization that aims to educate the younger generation about sustainable agricultural practices and develop an appreciation for where their food comes from. By bringing knowledge of hydroponics and urban agriculture to schools and tutoring centers in Hong Kong, we hope to relay the importance of self-sustenance and appreciation for the hard work put into growing produce.
- Can you tell our audience a bit about yourself?
I am a rising senior pursuing the Environmental Immersion Program at Choate Rosemary Hall. Actively curious about the environmental world around me through multidisciplinary studies, I enjoy looking into environmental economics and policies the most. I also write sustainable policies at school as the Head Conservation Proctor. My interest mainly lies in Urban Agriculture, specifically through writing a research paper by comparing the profitability and environmental impacts of rooftop and vertical farming in Hong Kong versus New York. I have also been keen on raising awareness of urban agricultural approaches to the next generation and to give back to society.
I am a rising junior at the Loomis Chaffee School. My primary and secondary schools were both next to an area in Hong Kong called the flower market. After school, I often browsed around the flower market, and it soon became my hobby to collect plants and learn about their care and biology. As I searched for ways to grow veggies at home, I learned about hydroponics and the benefits it brings, inspiring me to collaborate with Jasmine to use hydroponics to educate the next generation in Hong Kong about self-sustenance and food insecurity.
- How did the idea to form Young Harvester start?
During the pandemic, we noticed how limited the food supply was in markets and how prices for food rose exponentially. Hence, many citizens, especially those living in low-income households, could not get ahold of food to support their families. In addition, people who could not afford or get access to masks could not leave their homes to buy groceries. Also affected by this phenomenon, I started planting crops on my balcony to carry some responsibility for my family. As for the excess harvested crops, I gave them to friends and neighbours and the rest was distributed to people in need.
We collaborated with social workers from different districts to distribute crop boxes to help alleviate food insecurity. It was then I decided that I needed to pass on this concept of self-sustainability and give back to society to the next generation. I shared this idea with a few of my friends who also had a passion for agriculture.
Furthermore, I knew from my research paper that hydroponics was the most suitable form of urban agriculture for people to grow their own crops at home, even when facing the space limitations of Hong Kong. Thus, we decided to bring hydroponics to schools and educational centers to educate the next generation of self-sustenance.
- What are the factors influencing food insecurity in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong has some of the highest income inequalities among developed economies, and as much as 23% of the Hong Kong population lives in poverty. Furthermore, Low-income families spend 31% of their income on food. The lack of affordable housing in Hong Kong forces many families to spend most of their income on rent, leaving minimal income for food.
- What sort of technologies have you used or developed to tackle food insecurity in Hong Kong?
We mainly use hydroponic systems, which can be vertically extended, saving space in Hong Kong residential housing, which is often limited in space. Because water is reused circularly, hydroponics systems also save 70% more water than traditional farming methods. Outdoor hydroponics systems that we use for rooftop gardens in schools can rely on solar energy for power, making the whole system energy-efficient. Hydroponics systems are also more cost-efficient, as many factors can be controlled, such as weather, water quality, and temperature.
For individuals wanting to grow vegetables at home, indoor hydroponics systems are convenient to use, too, because light can be easily controlled, and its small size allows it to be put anywhere indoors. This is why we gifted ten indoor hydroponics systems to kids in low-income families participating in one of our workshops.
- What kinds of crops do Young Harvester grow, and what is the environmental impact of growing these crops?
We try to grow all types of crops, mainly lettuce, as it is hardy and a popular vegetable that most people are accustomed to.
- What sort of feedback have you gotten from the people in Hong Kong that you are helping?
We received a very unexpected reaction from one of the 5-year-olds, who said that he used to absolutely hate eating vegetables. Still, after participating in our workshop and using hydroponics to grow his own veggies, he grew an appreciation for farmers’ hard work in growing produce. He expressed how his opinion changed on eating vegetables. He now loves them!
We also received feedback from parents commenting on how much their kid has learned from our workshop. We also noticed that a lot of people in HK don’t know what hydroponics are, so students have reported to us that they have learned a lot of new information that they were never exposed to.
- How can someone get involved with Young Harvester?
Sign up on our website, www.youngharvester.org, to either join us as a volunteer or a partnering organisation,
- What does the future hold for Young Harvester? Any interesting projects in the work that you’d like to share?
We would like to try experimenting with other urban agriculture techniques, such as aquaculture and aeroponics. Additionally, we hope to expand our program to the US and other countries.
- Do you have a final message you’d like to leave our readers with?
This past July was the hottest month ever to be recorded on Earth. This means that irreversible damage to the climate is coming, and changes will have to be made to infrastructures all around the world, but most importantly, to agriculture. Vegetables cannot survive in such climates if global warming continues, which is why we hope that urban agriculture, especially hydroponics, can develop to be an alternative to traditional farming methods. Additionally, in this fluctuating and unexpected world, it is important to be self-sustainable, even in the worst scenarios.