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Find out how Gordon Tam, a former architect and the founder of Farm66, is revolutionising salad in Hong Kong through aquaponic farming.

Text: Mandy Wong   Image: Farm66

Q1. What was the inspiration behind Farm66?

I had been an architectual designer for years in Hong Kong upon graduation from Washington State University and starting my career in real estate and finance industry. Despite making my initial fortune, the hectic pace and pressure was slowly dragging me down. Therefore in 2011, I enrolled in the MSc program in Sustainable Urban Development in Hong Kong Polytechnic University, from where my urban farming journey began. My family has a history of allergy, all the way to myself – I have serious skin allergy – and my young niece. Right after I have street food, you will see my face, neck, hands and legs swelling up within an hour and this has worsened over time. It comes long in my mind how I can actually help eradicate food safety problems for our next generation, and during the research years I began combining cross-disciplinary team from chemistry, architecture and mechanical engineering expertise in form of planting veggies in factory.  Finally Farm66, a food safety cum sustainable urban development model of aquaponic farming was born.

Q2. Can you elaborate to us how aquaponic farming helps urban dwells lead a way of sustainable future?

The rationale of aquaponics is simple – growing fish and plants together, meaning to combine aquaculture with hydroponics to create a symbiotic relationship between fish and plant life. The aquaponics form a closed-loop food production ecosystem in which the plant growing bed is sustained by nutrient-rich water in the fish tanks. While Farm66 is not the only organisation in Hong Kong that embraces the idea of aquaponics, we are definitely the first one to do so in an indoor factory setting. The reason behind this is to save cost – as we all know, the rent in Hong Kong can be insanely high, in order to break even, we will have to make the whole model as cost-effective as possible. This is why we have built a seven-storey growing bed to increase productivity of the vegetables. However, the first problem that we need to solve is light. As we adopted the Controlled Environment approach meaning without direct sunlight coming in, we opt for LED lighting to ensure photosynthesis for the plants, and after months of research and experiment, we finally came up with a solution called the ‘wavelength technology’. The spectrum of LED lighting is applied via this wavelength technology to increase the photosynthesis for the plants, which are grown without the application of any chemical fertilisers. This has already been patented by the Intellectual Property Department (editor’s note: patent number HK1190267). And don’t forget, the veggies are locally produced so their carbon footprints are relatively low! To be honest, aquaponics is not any kind of breakthrough technology – our senior Chinese generation had long been setting up fishponds near farms. So we are just reintroducing the old wisdom with modern technology.

Q3. Why does Hong Kong need such an aquaponics system? What are the pros and cons of the system, for both farmers and consumers?

I would say aquaponics is an advanced version of hydroponics – more cost-effective, even more original by nature, need no any application of chemicals. Lots of people think hydroponics veggies are natural and organic, but sadly it’s not always the case. Most of the nutrient solutions are in fact chemicals, which therefore defeat the purpose of food safety. Nonetheless, aquaponics does not rely on any kind of chemicals – the growth of healthy and tasty vegetables only counts on the health of fish. By then consumers can be assured of the premium quality of the veggies. For urban farmers, aquaponics definitely has its benefits too. First of all, as aquaponic is a closed-loop indoor system, it means that the vegetables can be free of pesticides and contamination. In business terms, it is easier to build customer loyalty if your crops are of exceptional and reliable quality. Having said that, I guess what currently hinders the idea of aquaponics, especially in such settings, is the amount of initial investment. When it is true that the farming industry is gradually blooming, it is certainly an investment of risk but aquaponics, or organic farming in general, is the future trend of burning demand.

Q4. Can you describe the daily routine of your farm?

The first thing when we get back to our farm every morning is to harvest the vegetables. Since we need to ensure the freshness of the veggies, we pack them into to-go salad cups and deliver them to outlets such as City’Super supermarket right away. After lunch, we clean up the growing beds and pot the crops again. The usual growth cycle of our veggies is from 35 to 55 days, which is more reliable and stable as compared to traditional farming.

Q5. What is Farm66’s mission? 

Our ultimate goal is to distribute healthy, purely 100% fresh, organic produce and to educate local consumers on adopting ‘more veggies, less meat’ diet as daily routine. To achieve this, we have dual roles in our business development: One is to keep improving and doing research on our wavelength technology, as different kinds of vegetables have different sets of optimal wavelength; secondly, we are dedicated to promote urban green living by launching more educational promotion program. This also explains why we’ve been getting more involved in cooperation with schools recently.


Q6. Can you cite some recent educational program conducted? And when will be the next round?

In the past 9 months we have started several Green-Living seminar and exhibition touring at schools, big corporations, NGOs and churches. We also launched ‘SALAD-day’ to promote low-carbon green living, reduce carbon emissions and modern plant-factory (FUTURE FARM Project) in communities at large, and more aggressively we have set up ‘Aquaponics Farming System’ in some supporting schools, which can cultivate closer interaction between teachers and students in relevant subjects like biology, science, chemistry or liberal during lessons, in laboratories or after school. We will be persistent in launching more promotion activities open for public in coming year.

Q7. In a nutshell, what sustainable lifestyle are you living?

This farm has already given me a sustainable lifestyle, don’t you think? (Laughs) we should definitely save energy by relying less on air conditioning and switching off lights if not in use. But choosing to be more proactive in sustainable livelihood, we promote local farming in reducing carbon mileage, applying LED which saves 70% energy and improves energy efficiency instead of traditional T9 lighting-tube; and promoting vege-diet “More veggies, less meat” to reduce carbon-emission. That’s the entire key to realise our earth’s sustainability.


Unit B, 11/F, Chen Yip Industrial Building, 5 Lai Yip Street, Kwun Tong, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Tel: (852) 3905 2266

Price: HKD25 (mini), HKD35 (regular), HKD53 (jumbo)

Other Crops & Products:  Herbs, mushroom, freshwater fish

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