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MKT202: (Online) Marketing ManagementGrowing a Green Singapore
Mr. Bjorn Low wants to make the Republic a more sustainable and liveable city Mr. Bjorn Low is mild-mannered and soft-spoken, radiating an affecting calm quite becoming of a gentleman farmer who is happiest tending to his mustard frills, Mexican tarragon, micro basil, and other greens.
The 39-year-old is the founder of urban farming social enterprise Edible Garden City (EGC). He set it up in 2012 and, in the last eight years, has been beavering away with the authorities, communities, and businesses to propagate the benefits of urban farming and make Singapore a more sustainable and liveable city.
Among other things, EGC develops and maintains commercial and residential food gardens, grows and sells vegetables to restaurants and families, and conducts workshops and talks about urban farming. It also organizes educational tours to its Citizen Farm in Jalan Penjara, a closed-loop farming model which not only involves the community but also uses food waste from the city to fertilize the crops it cultivates.
The outfit – a 2017 DBS Foundation Grant awardee – is also big on social impact, hiring staff who have autism and other special needs, and pushing horticulture therapy to promote mental health. EGC employees have also received mentoring and leadership training through DBS’ Foundational Leadership Development Programme.
For his efforts, Mr. Low has earned several plaudits, including a 2018 nomination for The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year award.
Over the past eight years, EGC has built more than 200 food gardens for the likes of Marina Bay Sands, Resorts World Sentosa, and Fairmont Hotel, and won a slew of business and sustainability awards. Last year, the company, which was started with a capital of $10,000, made $1.6 million in revenue.
Its 35 employees include several former corporate types, including chief executive officer Sameull Ang, who worked for companies including Burger King and Asia-Pacific Breweries.
The 62-year-old says: “I am blessed to be able to use my private and public sector experience as a force for good. I survived two close shaves with death when I was in primary school – being run over by a taxi and a narrow escape from a chopper-wielding amok.
“It makes me value life as if I have been given a second chance. When I wake up every morning, I remind myself to live my life to make a difference and impact the lives of those around me.”
Asked what – conviction, faith, or luck – has been most important in his journey, Mr. Low says:
Having conviction is important during the initial start-up phase. Luck plays a significant part – it boils down to meeting the right people and being in the right place at the right time.
What three reasons would you give to convince people that urban farming is far from a loopy idea and that it is important for a place like Singapore? It’s not something new, trendy or loopy. Urban farming has been around throughout history.
During World War II, the Dig For Victory campaign in Britain – where people were encouraged to grow their own food – saw farms sprouting all over urban spaces. The Cuban Oil Embargo got citizens to dig over car parks to grow their own food in the city.
Urban farming can improve community bonding, generate positive social outcomes and provide environmental impact. It allows citizens to participate in the food movement, gives them access to clean and healthy vegetables, and supports and improves their mental state of mind through the positive effects of horticulture therapy.
Urban farming can heal the body through the food we eat, the mind through the activities we can do on the farm, and the soul by repairing the environment around us. Which is easier to handle: vegetables or humans?
I love dealing with plants. They speak to you in subtle ways and if you nurture them, they give back. Humans are similar, but there is a challenge: They tend to talk back. Also, dealing with human emotions can be mentally taxing. But I want to build on my connection with people. It is my personal journey.
Do you agree that farming and gardening can be as effective as anti-depressants for sad, lonely or maladjusted individuals?
Yes, for sure. When I spend time in the garden, I feel happy and contented. I knew there were some benefits to my mental well-being, but it was always a feeling and not scientifically proven. But the National University of Singapore and NParks have done studies with scientific evidence that horticulture therapy can have positive benefits such as lowering stress markers in the body.
What can farming and gardening teach us about life? Today, the garden looks beautiful and bountiful, but tomorrow, Mr. Caterpillar can descend and munch through half your garden. The garden and farm teach us that things are impermanent and are in a constant state of flux. It’s the same with life. Today, everything may be well for you, but the next day, everything may just go wrong.
(a) Marketers can market 10 main types of entities. Explain any three (3) types of entities that are marketed by Edible Garden City (EGC) and the corresponding key customer markets for each entity.
(b) Evaluate the macroenvironment forces and discuss the impacts of three (3) macro-environment trends on urban or high-tech farming businesses in Singapore.
(Note: Please ensure that adequate secondary research is conducted so that evidence and supporting information can be provided in your answer.
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