NUS Researchers Create Farming System Which Can Use Water in the Air to Grow Plants


Singapore’s always looking for new ways to improve.

And one way that we’re always looking towards is ways to be more environmentally sustainable.

Reducing carbon emissions, replacing diesel cars are just some of the goals we’ve set for the nearer future.

But today, we’re going to be talking about something we’re sure hasn’t been on most people’s radar.


NUS Researchers Create Farming System Which Can Use Water in the Air to Grow Plants

And the researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have been researching that.

The Straits Times reported that they’ve created a prototype device, aptly named SmartFarm, as a self-contained farming system.

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It also uses a new hydrogel as its main technology.

If you look at the video below, it kind of looks like a futuristic fish tank.

At night, the top cover opens to allow the hydrogel to trap moisture in the air.


The copper-based gel is non-toxic, extremely absorbent and can hold up to 300 per cent or of its own weight in water.

Meanwhile, things like silica gels can only hold up to 30 per cent of their own weight in water.

After sunrise, at a preset time, the cover closes to confine the water vapour, forcing it to condense on the surface of the enclosure.

This is then wiped off the surface and onto the soil to water the plants.

The process has even seen the team successfully grow kangkong using this system!

We can only imagine the convenience to have one of these at home.

A kilogram of the new hydrogel costs about S$20 to make but the researchers think it’ll drop once there’s more demand.

Moisture As A Resource

A long time ago, we used fire to provide light.

Nowadays, we have electricity to give us multiple light sources.

And with the advancement of tech, the researchers want to use the moisture in the air as a new source of fresh water.


SmartFarm’s project leader, Assistant Professor Tan Swee Ching said that using such a source has been largely unexplored.

In fact, his team thinks this discovery tackle water scarcity and food shortages.

He also feels SGs super high humidity, usually over 80 per cent, are good for the hydrogel technology.

The researchers were reported to have been working on it since late 2019.

Wanted To Use Hydrogels For Another Problem

Speaking of humidity, utilising hydrogel technology was meant for another problem, according to Prof Tan.

And it was for the very own problem of our country’s insane heat.


He said that because of how humid it is here, our perspiration can’t even evaporate off our skin, which is how we usually lose heat.

And we can only hope research on that continues because we all know about Singapore and humidity.

Currently, the NUS team is discussing with industry partners to explore commercialisation options.

You can read up more in-depth details about the SmartFarm project here.

Featured Image: Facebook (National University of Singapore)