As CEO and cofounder of Comcrop, Niyati Gupta (MBA 2011) is helping local urban farmers in Singapore grow fresh, healthy produce using rooftop gardens that blend the techniques of aquaculture and hydroponics. In this interview, she talks about the challenge that inspired her business and how it is solving a critical need in Singapore.
“HBS was centered on leadership and making a difference around a problem that you really cared about, and for me that problem was food security. For the last 10 years I’ve focused on agriculture, and that’s brought me to where I am today, which is addressing the problem of sustainable food using business.
“Singapore imports 90 percent of its food. By the time it gets to Singapore, it’s degraded, it’s expensive, its quality is terrible, and I won’t even start on the impact on the environment of transporting that food. My cofounder and I decided to use marginalized spaces in Singapore—rooftops—rather than farmland, which wasn’t available in the city.
“The kind of technology we use—using hydroponics, but also stacking the pipes—means we’re getting around 20 to 30 times what a conventional farm would produce. We then also don’t lose the 30 to 50 percent of wastage that you would see in green vegetables when you’re transporting from one country to another. So we end up having a much more productive farm that we can price at a competitive level.
“I think about it as getting back to the roots of what food is supposed to be. I think globally what we’re seeing is, yes, people want to be healthier, but they also want to know where their food comes from.”
(Published September 2016)
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