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Laying the foundations for a table-to-farm system | What we learned from our first Restore Fund

Since work began a year ago with our first ever group of beneficiaries, we have seen a significant positive impact as we lay the foundations for a circular, table-to-farm food system in Hong Kong and GBA. The Restore Fund is the first climate solution that directly connecting restaurants and agriculture. Over the year, we provided funding to five farms in Hong Kong to assist with their transition to regenerative agriculture, supported by our soil expert advisor Homeland Green. With no precedent, the past year has been a steep learning curve, during which remaining transparent and accountable for our operations has been paramount. Let’s take a look at closer look at how things went.


Healthy crops on a regenerative farm

Crops growing healthily at Eva's Farm


Getting started

Regenerative practices like mulching, composting and nutrient amendment require certain materials to get started. Leveraging the Restore Fund, our farmers were able to procure all the necessary inputs including wood chips from Y-Park, quality compost from the mainland, organic effective microorganism (EM) fertiliser granules and molasses.


Implementation

Mulching is a highly effective way to protect soil from intense heat, helping to retain moisture and moderate temperature for important microorganisms like earthworms. Most of our farms used a mixture of woodchips and mushroom substrates as this combination has proved most effective in building a healthy fungal-bacterial ratio and reducing weed problems. Some farms got their wood chips from Y-park, others bought equipment to make their own, and all mushroom substrates were sourced locally, reducing waste going to landfill and reinforcing a closed loop system.

farmer making his own woodchips with a woodchipper

Farmer Cheong Gor makes his own woodchips using a woodchipper


Person checking our woodchips and mushroom substrate at a farm

Piles of mulch materials - woodchips from Y-Park (right) and spent mushroom substrate from local farm (left) (25th May, 2023)


For nutrient amendments, different farms have different approaches based on their operational needs. Farms such as Cham Shan and Eva’s, use soy, nut pulps, peanut meal, organic EM fertiliser granules, and molasses to ferment their nutrient supplements, whereas Fa Liu used kelp ferments which worked beautifully on winter melons.


farmer comparing the size of a regeneratively grown wintermelon

Wintermelon at Fa Liu's!


For composting, all farms applied quality compost from Mainland China tested by our soil expert advisor, with the exception of Noah’s Forest. As a newly established farm, Noah’s Forest took the opportunity to test new ways of composting and employed the Johnson-Su method, a low-tech process that combines green matter with fungi and passive ventilation to create compost teeming with microorganisms. The process took around 9 months, and crops were visibly thriving after application. Sadly, there was not enough compost for the long term, but the lessons learned from this experiment will be shared and applied by farms looking to adopt similar practices.


To boost biodiversity and enhance resilience to extreme weather, most of our farmers implemented cover cropping and diversity planting. Citrus trees and fruit trees are often the popular choice amongst farmers for this practice. Homemade lemonade anyone?


fruit trees on a regenerative farm

Fruit trees around Eva's Farm


Highlights

Farmer Pat Fan was initially concerned about the manpower needed and the implementation costs of switching to regenerative methods. Nearly 12 months later, Farmer Pat reports a 50% reduction in input costs and the need for less labour. On top of that, he tells us his crops are reaching optimum size and are more resilient to pests, with his tomatoes no longer plagued by bacterial wilt after applying Trichoderma – a naturally occurring fungus that controls soil-borne diseases.


Over at Eva’s Farm, the science doesn’t lie. Results from a soil test conducted in August at a local university lab* showed her soil reached an average of 7.9% in organic carbon concentration, with global averages ranging between 0.5% to 3.0%.


And the effect on the produce? Regenerative practices and healthier soil allowed them to extend their harvest of tasty Japanese strawberries from February until late March.


*in accordance with the Soil Health Institute’s soil testing protocols


farmer holding a japanese strawberry

Japanese strawberry at Eva's Farm


What's next?


With the help of Homeland Green, soil-expert Technical Assistant Providers, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong Lab, we aim to boost results from regenerative practices further and gather more data to support the narrative for sound land management and local nature-based solutions to combat climate change. We have introduced this one-of-a-kind framework to Hong Kong, and we aim to amplify our positive impact in other parts of Asia, coming soon to Singapore and Bali.


Farmers, hospitality operators, supermarket owners, food lovers – are you ready to make a difference? Find out how you can be part of our next Restore Fund to turn carbon in the atmosphere into tasty, sustainable food.

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