Taiwan, Vatican celebrate first harvest from joint 'smart farm' project

01/16/2021 02:52 PM
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Taiwan's Ambassador to the Vatican Mathew Lee (second right). CNA photo Jan. 16, 2021

Rome, Jan. 16 (CNA) Representatives of Taiwan and the Holy See on Friday celebrated the first harvest from a new indoor farming facility, which the two sides said will showcase technology's role in achieving more sustainable agriculture.

Taiwan's Ambassador to the Vatican, Mathew Lee (李世明), toured the farm on the grounds of the Opera Nazionale Per Le Citta' Dei Ragazzi (City of Youth), a Catholic foundation that provides education opportunities and career training to young immigrants and refugees. The foundation, which is located on a 60-hectare complex in southwest Rome, has served in recent years as a testing ground for many of the Vatican's environmental initiatives.

According to Lee, the project was inspired by Pope Francis' second encyclical letter, Laudato Si, in which he calls for a decisive global response to the threats of environmental degradation and climate change.

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Taiwan's Ambassador to the Vatican Mathew Lee (left) harvest the vegetable Friday. CNA photo Jan. 16, 2021

In the spirit of the pontiff's appeal, Lee said, Taiwan leveraged its strengths in precision agriculture technologies and sent a team of agronomists and engineers, who worked with the foundation to launch the farm in only three months.

"We hope that this (facility) will serve as an example to promote the concept of smart agriculture more broadly in Italy," Lee said.

Vincenzo Cappannini, the foundation's chairman, said Taiwan's commitment to the project was particularly meaningful, given the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and the obstacles it has created for international exchange programs.

Lin Chun-hui (林峻輝), an agriculture expert from Taoyuan's YesHealth iFarm who helped design the farm, said that in spite of the difficulties - such as mandatory quarantines and the language barrier - the project was worth the effort.

"I even learned quite a bit of Italian in three months!" he joked.

To celebrate the harvest, the foundation on Friday treated Taiwan embassy staff and the project's volunteers to an Italian meal made from herbs and vegetables grown on the farm.

The dishes prepared with the vegetables grown in the "smart farm." CNA photo Jan. 16, 2021
The dishes prepared with the vegetables grown in the "smart farm." CNA photo Jan. 16, 2021

YesHealth is considered a leader in vertical farming, which grows vegetables in vertically stacked shelves inside factory-like facilities that allow for temperature, lighting and water control.

This method of growing vegetables has also gained popularity for its ability to produce higher yields from fewer land and water resources, while also negating the need for environmentally harmful fertilizers and pesticides.

(By Huang Ya-shih and Matthew Mazzetta)

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