Interview with Time to Grow
Established in 2012, Time To Grow (TTG) is a responsible enterprise dedicated to promoting urban farming in Hong Kong. Through our bespoke farm installation services and educational workshops, we want to turn the city’s unused spaces into an edible urban landscape and reconnect city-dwellers with the food they eat. Our goal is not just to promote urban farming in Hong Kong, but to encourage conscious lifestyle choices that take into account our relationship to the environment and our community.What was your inspiration to start Time to Grow?
We met at a gathering of people interested in social enterprise, where we also connected with Ah Pad, one of the pioneers of Hong Kong's organic food movement. Although organic farming has been taking place in Hong Kong for decades, it is mostly confined to the New Territories. We wanted to show people that it is possible to grow your own delicious and nutritious fruit, vegetables and herbs, right in the heart of the city.
How long did it take you to set up your business?
Our first project was on the terrace of The Peak Galleria in the summer of 2012, which was a lucky break for us, coming just a few months after TTG had been established. It was a great learning experience and such an iconic location gave us a lot of credibility. However, I would say that it has taken at least 18 months for us to really get going. Earlier this year, we launched a rooftop farm on the Bank of America Tower in Central, in partnership with Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) and Bank of America Merrill Lynch; and since then we've been getting a lot more attention.
Where do you source your seeds and boxes from?
We source all of our organic seeds, soil and equipment from local suppliers.
How are you funded?
We are privately funded. Initial funding was under HK$200,000.
What are your biggest challenges?
One of our biggest challenges initially was the mindset that there is a lack of space in Hong Kong to grow food. Many people would agree that urban farming is a great idea in other countries, but that it is impossible in Hong Kong. However, once you know what a suitable space looks like, you can see them everywhere.
What do you love the most about this business?
There is something about growing and eating your home grown food that is truly satisfying. With children especially, you can see they are curious about the natural world. As we were delivering one workshop, we saw a little girl disappear behind the audience. When the session ended, we found she had taken off her shoes, lifted one leg up onto a sack of soil almost as tall as she was and was rubbing her bare foot in the soil "just to see what it felt like". At the heart of it, TTG is not just work, its lots of fun too!
Who are your go to business mentors in HK?
While we don't have a single mentor, we have been fortunate to have been supported by many experts in different fields. We've also been part of SOW Asia's i2i programme and we’re members of The Good Lab, which has given us access to advisers and other entrepreneurs in the same boat.
Who does your marketing?
Our PR is done in-house and through our partners like JLL. Our branding and website were designed by Gardens&co. - they are fantastic!
How do you promote your business?
Facebook, email, giving presentations and talks that introduce what we do, networking and posting on websites like Ecozine.