Archive for the ‘hydroponic’ Category


Hydroponic vegetables “like watching TV”

March 15, 2007

While the Assistant Director of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority tells us that vegetables grown in water and suspended in air are natural, let me share with you a somewhat different comment that I will always remember.

About 10 years ago, my partners and I at Brown Rice Paradise once organised a public forum by a biodynamic farmer. If I remember correctly, the event was held at the NUS Guild House at Kent Ridge Campus.

This is quite a long story, pardon the lengthy preamble but you might learn something new from it…

Biodynamics is a system of natural farming that goes beyond organic. It might be even called “cosmic farming” as, among other things, it makes use of cosmic forces. Crops are planted, fertilised and harvested according to the cycles of the moon and stars to produce food of the best possible quality.

For example, one unique feature of biodynamics is a special fertiliser called Preparation 500. It is made by staffing cow dung into cow’s horns, burying them in the snow during winter and then taking them out in spring. The dung, now totally transformed, has to be mixed with water, stirring in one direction until a vortex forms, then changing direction and stirring until another vortex forms. This is repeated for hours. Finally, it is sprayed between dusk and midnight on a full moon night.

Now this might sound like hocus pocus to some people, but it works. One handful of Preparation 500 can fertilise one acre of land! It’s like homeopathic fertiliser. Very tiny amounts would create a big impact.

I remember watching a documentary on biodynamics once. An Australian farmer bought a piece of barren land for very little money. In nine months, using Preparation 500, he transformed the land into a lush, fertile farm. He also kept a small corner in its original state to show the vast contrast.

I remember the first time I ate biodynamic brown rice, it tasted so much better than regular organic brown rice. And, our customers who bought whole wheat berries for sprouting into wheat grass would buy biodynamic wheat berries, because they produced the highest yeild and the strongest sprouts.

There is something special here. Look for biodynamic food, sometimes with a logo that says “Demeter” in health food stores and the organic section of supermarkets.

Biodynamics was introduced by the late Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian who might be called a scientist, philosopher, spiritualist and more. His ideas has influence in areas that include:

  • agriculture (biodynamics)
  • education (Waldorf schools)
  • dance (eurythmy)
  • medicine (Androposophy)
  • architecture
  • and so on.

Rudolf Steiner also had interesting views about the evolution of religion and about Jesus Christ being at the centre, the vital turning point, of this evolution.

And so these varied topics were mostly covered in the talk by the biodynamic “farmer”. Some of the concepts discussed were quite cheem – deeply profound, philosophical, esoteric.

Finally, the farmer ended his talk and it was time for questions and answers. And after various equally cheem questions were asked and answered, one elderly gentleman stood up and asked: “Excuse me… what about hydroponics?”

The answer given by the farmer stunned us all. He said: “It’s like watching TV?”

Huh? What is this guy saying?

Then he explained… When you watch a nature documentary on TV, it looks very nice and even quite real, but it is not the real thing.

A plant is a transformation of the environment. When you eat a plant, you are “eating” or taking in the entire environment — the soil, water, air, sunlight and other elements — that created it. So if the plant is grown in an artificial environment — without soil, with synthetic nutrients, in a temperature controlled environment, and so on — it is artificial, not the real thing.

Like TV!


Click here to read more articles about hydroponics.

Click here and here to read more about biodynamic farming.



Hydroponics / aeroponics are “natural”. Period.

March 15, 2007

In any discussion / debate / argument, we may sometimes reach a point where we feel there is simply no point in pursuing the subject further, because the other person is either on a totally different wavelength, or being absolutely unreasonable.

I reached that point this morning (technically speaking, yesterday morning as it’s past midnight as I write this) when I read the following letter in the ST Forum:

Labelling of vegetables

I REFER to the letter, ‘Organic labelling for vegetables misleading’ (ST, March 12). The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority does not object to the use of the words ‘natural’ and ‘grown naturally’ to describe fresh fruit and vegetables produced using aeroponics or hydroponics, as these methods of farming adopt the same basic principles as conventional farming.

The methods of farm production are also not required by the Food Regulations to be labelled on prepacked fresh fruit and vegetables. However, fresh fruit and vegetables which are labelled as ‘organic’, ‘organically produced’ or words of similar meanings should meet the standards established by the Codex Alimentarius Commission for organically produced food.

Goh Shih Yong
Assistant Director
Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority


The above was in reply to my letter published on Monday, about organic labelling of vegetables at the NTUC Fairprice Xtra hypermarket in Ang Mo Kio.

I was stunned and left speechless to read Mr Goh’s response. If our (highly paid) senior civil servants wish to assert that vegetables grown in water or grown suspended in air are “natural”, then I really don’t know what else to say.

Perhaps some of you who are less stunned and speechless than I would take the discussion to the next, higher or lower, level. Or maybe in a day or two, I might recover sufficiently to think of something non-expletive to say.

For now, let me share with you what I discovered this morning.

I went to and typed in “natural”. I was led to 22 results, of which the first had 38 meanings and definitions. The closest that comes to explaining how vegetables grown in air or water might possibly be considered natural was definition #34:

An idiot!