the vegetable co

The Vegetable Co. Sha G.P. & Shawn Ng

Sustainability

We’ve seen the signs and innovative technologies are now positively changing the face of agriculture throughout the world. From social networks to cutting-edge tech like self- driving vehicles, farming is going digital. That means we’re about to be inundated with an abundance of innovative solutions for effective farming, especially within city limits. Plus, a ton of focus has been placed by governmental and international bodies to achieve sustainability in agriculture as population numbers continue to explode.

Creating more sustainable farming practices not only requires adopting new technologies for crop management, pest control, quality control, and integrated disease management, but also considering new tools like robotics, big data and intelligent machinery. And into the thick of things, entrepreneurs Shawn and Sha have carved out a unique niche that might very possibly, allow current and future generations of farmers to grow without compromising the needs of the earth. In light of this, we take a look at their brilliant take on controlled- environment farming.

HOW DID YOU MEET AND WHAT ARE YOUR ROLES IN THE COMPANY?
Sha: We met 10 years ago while doing our A-Levels, I studied Economic Consulting and Business Strategy while Shawn was in Politics and Philosophy, plus a masters in Sustainability and Management. I think in terms of work we share a lot of the responsibilities but I’m primarily focused on tech development.
Shawn: And I’m on the business-end of things. Somehow our personalities just clicked from the beginning.

WHAT’S UNIQUE ABOUT THE VEGETABLE CO.?
Sha: Our strategy differs quite a bit - we’re in a completely controlled environment so that means absolutely no pesticides. This allows us to optimise a lot of factors like environmental influence and nutrients. This also means the set-up can be more costly initially but you get a lot more output per square foot. In fact, we’re getting 24 kilograms per square foot per year within a 300 square foot container. Right now, we can grow three quarters of an acre of produce at exactly the same price in a traditional farming set up. Plus, our produce is the freshest you’ll find because it’s literally harvested and sold within hours.

WHAT DO YOU FOCUS ON WHEN IT COMES TO BRANDING AND MARKETING?
Shawn: Our message is that our vegetables are completely healthy and beneficial to the end consumer. For corporations, we’re showing them how infinitely scalable our model of farming can actually be. We’re bringing the farm nearer to the consumer. In fact, we can literally grow food right next door to a regular urban community - its farming among the consumers. On top of that, we’re collecting data from every single plant to optimise growth and yield.
Sha: Absolutely, we’re fusing software and hardware to reach optimal size, taste and nutritional value. Plus our environment-controlled chambers are saving on land space and water consumption.

BUILDING THE RIGHT TEAM CAN MAKE OR BREAK A STARTUP. WHAT VALUES DO YOU GUYS LOOK FOR?
Shawn: Basically, I look for a sense of drive and ownership. We have a great team right now because everyone understands their responsibilities and how everyone’s roles overlap with each others’. Our company culture is relaxed and flexible but that said, we are results driven and everyday there are new challenges to overcome.
Sha: I look for engineers who can play a multidisciplinary role. One of our most important hires remains our first farm operator, Bryan Lee. We hired him back in late 2019 when he was 19, and he has been with us since. Combining his love for plants with his mechanical and electrical engineering skills has made him essential for the work here, especially during the early stages.

Shirt, jacket, trousers and hat by Brunello Cucinelli