How This City Council Staff Innovated Urban Strawberry Farming For Growth In Hot Climate

Growing strawberries in a hot climate are not normally possible, but this city council employee has done just that. He is an avid urban farming hobbyist, who grows vegetables and fruits in his city home in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. His innovative farming technology was showcased at the recent Selangor Summit. 

Mohammad Saifulnizam works for Majlis Daerah Hulu Selangor, a municipal council in the greater areas of Kuala Lumpur, known as the Klang Valley. In his spare time, after work, he has grown various vegetables such as chilies, cabbages, mint leaves, and various other vegetables in the backyard of his urban home. This is far from his qualification and job position in the IT department of the council.

Can Strawberries Grow In Hot Weather?

Kuala Lumpur is known for its hot weather, which averages around 31 degrees Celsius, on a normal day. Yet, strawberries typically grow in temperate climates of 15 degrees to 26 degrees Celcius. In Malaysia, strawberries are grown in the highlands, such as Cameron Highlands, where it has a temperate climate of 21 degrees Celcius on an average day.  

How Innovation and Generating New Ideas Started

He had tinkered for ideas of how to grow strawberries, which is one of his favorite fruits, in such a hot climate. Even when he managed to grow the strawberry plant, the plants did not bear fruit. Hence, Saifulnizam had tinkered through trial and error, where he tried many ways to imitate the cool climate to grow strawberries. 

These trial and errors to imitate a cold climate included:

  • growing the strawberry plant in an air-conditioning environment
  • Feeding cool filtered water to the plants
  • Releasing cool mists into the environment for the plants

Inverse Heating Via Geothermal Energy

 However, none of the ideas worked. Until he found out about geothermal energy from the internet. Geothermal energy is often used in cold climates as a heating method for residential homes to save money on utility bills. The concept is to use the warmth of the ground to heat water into the ground and which then releases back into the homes. 

In additional to geothermal being used to heat up the homes, geothermal technology is also used to cool homes during hot weather. This inverse method is used to cool down the house’s temperature, and from this method, Saifulnizam came up with the idea to cool down his strawberry plants. 

By simply being able to provide cool water to water the strawberry plants, at a temperature of 19 degrees Celcius, he is able to provide the cool weather climate much needed for his strawberry plants. He also builds a shelter to protect the plants from the direct, hot sun, as well as from heavy tropical rain. 

Copper piping buried in the ground to cool down water to water the strawberry plants

The cool water is achieved using the inverse geothermal concept, where normal, room temperature water is flowed through copper-based pipes buried in the ground and is then pumped back out at a lower, cooler temperature, before being pumped to water the plants. 

Grow Your Own Food With Urban Farming And Tech Innovations

More and more people are interested in growing their own food, in terms of fruit and vegetables,  

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This about from people’s concerns about health, where concerns about pesticides and various chemicals used in fruits and vegetables, to concerns about genetically-modified plants to cost-concerns and just wanting fresh food on demand. 

That was the case for Saifulnizam, who wanted to buy fresh chilis but found it too pricey. Hence, his journey into urban food farming began as he wanted fresh fruits and vegetables at affordable prices. 

Don’t be surprised to find out that 800 million people around the world are involved in urban farming, based on the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO). That’s one in ten people around the world who are involved in urban farming. 

Various technological innovations have also been used as urban farming movement grows in size and importance.  The most widely known method is hydroponics, where plants are grown in water, without soil. Newer farming technologies have appeared since, including, aeroponics, aquaponics, and vertical farming

Grow Your Plants for Side Income

Did you know that you can also grow your own plants and earn a side income from it as well? Simply because groceries and restaurants need to have a ready supply of fruits and vegetables for their businesses, and by growing and supplying to such needs you could also earn a healthy side income. A couple in Canada has done just that, where they grow vegetables in their basement as a side business, earning $10,000 a month. 

You don’t really need a big space or even land to grow plants in an urban environment. There are various methods and innovative technology available now which are cost-effective that can be implemented almost immediately. Whether you want to grow for your own health benefits, or for money, this can be done in the comfort of your homes, even if you live in an apartment. 


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