Representatives of Taiwan and the Vatican on Friday celebrated the first harvest from a new indoor farming facility, which the two sides said would showcase the role of technology in developing more sustainable agriculture.
Ambassador to the Holy See Matthew Lee (李世明) toured the farm on the grounds of the Opera Nazionale Per Le Citta’ Dei Ragazzi, Italian for “City of Youth,” a Catholic foundation that provides educational opportunities and career training to young immigrants and refugees.
The foundation, which is located on a 60-hectare complex in southwestern Rome, has over the past few years served as a testing ground for many of the Vatican’s environmental initiatives.
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 damage and climate change, Lee said.
In the spirit of the pontiff’s appeal, Taiwan leveraged its strengths in precision agriculture technologies, and sent a team of agronomists and engineers to help the foundation launch the farm in only three months, Lee said.
“We hope this facility will serve as an example to promote the concept of smart agriculture more broadly in Italy,” he said.
Foundation chairman Vincenzo Cappannini said that 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 exchanges.
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.
To celebrate its first harvest, the foundation invited Taiwanese representatives and volunteers at the project to an Italian meal prepared with herbs and vegetables grown on the farm.
YesHealth is a leader in vertical farming, a method of grow ing produce in vertically stacked shelves inside factory-like facilities that allow for temperature, lighting and water control. This method has gained popularity as it produces high yields on small ares of land, while saving water resources and minimizing the need for environmentally harmful fertilizers and pesticides.
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