Sustainable food is a necessity, not a trend. This is a firmly-held belief of Benjamin Swan, CEO and co-founder of Sustenir Agriculture, a regional fresh produce retailer. Swan feels modern customers are a blessed bunch who are able to conveniently access a wide range of foods through multiple touchpoints. But no matter their choice, one thing that consumers prize is freshness.
"Yet with all that convenience and access come a huge unseen problem. A lot of the food we produce and consume is wasted just getting to us. It’s a challenging problem, one that diminishes our ability to fight global warming and food security," Swan remarks in an email interview.
That’s where Sustenir Agriculture comes into the picture. In 2015, Swan launched an urban farming company in Singapore. It utilised indoor vertical farms to grow non-native crops in a sustainable manner all year round, through Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA).
After achieving success, Sustenir Agriculture expanded to Hong Kong, and later to Malaysia in April 2021. Their Malaysian farm is built inside Dairy Farm Group’s distribution centre in Kajang. After its crops are harvested daily, the farm-to-distribution delivery is made on foot. This makes them Malaysia’s first zero-mile smart farm.
"Importing perishables not only contributes to food waste but also carbon emissions, which is unsustainable for the future of our food supply," says Swan.
He adds that the use of Controlled Environment Agriculture enable them to utilise 95 per cent less water than traditional farming. "It also means Sustenir’s kale is 100 per cent clean with no pesticides, and displaces imports that would otherwise generate up to 92 per cent more carbon emissions in the food supply chain," he explains.
Sustenir prioritises growing food at the heart of the demand, which means growing locally, and as close to consumers as possible.— Benjamin Swan, CEO of Sustenir Agriculture