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Advocating For Sustainable Food Systems At Taylor’s Urban Farm

Armed with the mission to inspire and encourage its community to be drivers of change within the food system, and a major component of the Food Security and Nutrition Impact Lab, Taylor’s University lifted the curtain on the new Taylor’s Urban Farm (TUF) at its Lakeside Campus. Primed to be a driver of change, TUF offers a physical one-acre “field of inquiry” where students and staff alike can actively and intellectually respond to the need for transformation within the food system through innovation and technology.

TUF houses over 20 types of vegetables, fruits, and herbs through three distinct planting systems: vertical towers, grow beds, and autopots. In support of sustainable practices, the urban farm implements a closed-loop system that reduces dependence on external inputs and strengthens the nutrient cycle through recycling the water used for growing plants. Annually, the farm has the capacity to grow and harvest a total output of over 4000 kg worth of fresh, organic, and pesticide-free produce.

food system

This system minimises runoff materials such as pesticides and fertilisers from contaminating groundwater and surface water sources, unlike traditional farming. The farm is semi-automated through the use of the precise Internet of Things (IoT) Nido One system which can automatically control and detect several factors in a hydroponic growing system such as the pH level of the water, nutrient solution, and climatic parameters such as temperature and humidity.

“The technology and innovations available as well as our commitment to purpose-led learning, coupled with the multidisciplinary collaboration within our institution, puts us in a prime position to become a key player in the cultivation, amplification, and facilitation of debates and activism that can influence change to the food systems. By building a sustainable food and agriculture system to ensure food security and safety, we can play our part to improve the overall nutrition and sustainability of Malaysia’s food supply by 2030,” said Professor Dr Pradeep Nair, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer at Taylor’s University.

Furthermore, Associate Professor Dr Phelim Yong, Head of the School of Biosciences, envisions TUF as a multidisciplinary living lab that will benefit both the university’s staff and students, enhancing their food literacy. Moreover, the space is intended to support relevant academic and agricultural research at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, particularly in the cultivation of crops in hydroponic systems.

food system

The significance of the experiential learning opportunities that TUF offers is highlighted through the Minor in Sustainable Urban Farming. Taylor’s is the first private university in Malaysia to offer this study option in which students will be taught several modules in areas such as crop development, production and management through hydroponic systems, sustainable agriculture, and agriculture automation and data management.

“Through these experiences, students will gain practical knowledge in sustainable urban farming practices, which not only contribute to environmental preservation but also promote public health and support local communities,” he said.

In total, 80 percent of the produce grown at TUF will be supplied to the university’s academic kitchens, allowing students from Taylor’s Culinary Institute and the School of Food Studies and Gastronomy access to a fresh and nutritious supply of vegetables, fruits, and herbs grown within the same campus. This access will enable them to learn about socially conscious green practices, how to source ingredients, conduct sensory evaluation, catering to patrons with different dietary needs, in turn empowering them to create exceptional “farm-to-fork” dining experiences throughout their academic journey and future careers in the culinary and hospitality industries.

According to the 2022 Global Food Security Index by Economist Impact, Malaysia ranks #41 globally in food security and #2 in Southeast Asia, following the COVID-19 pandemic. With many basic food items not reaching a full self-sufficiency level to feed the population, the country heavily relies on imports of food from other countries to meet the demand of its people and industries, accumulating to RM 482.8 billion over the last 10 years, according to Department of Statistics Malaysia.

Striving to be a positive solution to the nation’s food and agriculture system, TUF is part of the Food Security and Nutrition Impact Lab which aims to end hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition. Overall, Taylor’s has introduced 13 Impact Labs where academics, students, and external partners collaborate to deliver solutions that contribute to the community’s shared prosperity, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

To find out more about the projects under Taylor’s Impact Labs and the institution’s commitment to purpose-led learning, click here.

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