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It all started with a heart attack. Singaporean Tan Hong Khoon moved his family’s pig farm from Singapore to Chongming Island 19 years ago. He went on to build a thriving business including Sun Island Resort, a spa, golf and meeting centre, and five golf courses on Chongming and in Jiangsu. Then, five years ago, he suffered a cardiac arrest and the experience inspired an epiphany on the importance of health.
Since then, many of Tan’s projects have begun converting into sustainable enterprises. Sun Island is transforming into a wellness retreat and the pig farm has a zero carbon emission goal. The most recent offspring of this drive towards sustainability is his new ‘farm to city’ grocery and hotpot restaurant on Kaixuan Lu, The Mahota.
The hotpot restaurant offers lunch (68RMB) and dinner (158RMB, all you can eat) sets featuring vegetables and pork direct from their farm. ‘The reason we chose hotpot is that this is the easiest and safest way to enjoy the farm’s produce because it’s so fresh,’ says Lay Ling Toh, senior manager of business development.
The store, located in the same space as the restaurant, offers a variety of organic and green food plus the vegetables from the Mahota farm, always picked within 24 hours. ‘We practice traceability,’ says Toh. ‘You can scan the QR code on the package and find out not only which plot of land it came from but who harvested it.’ She says they try to keep prices reasonable; leafy vegetables are around 5-8RMB for 300g packs and pork fillet is 50.6RMB/kg.
Beyond dining at the restaurant, people can also visit the Chongming Island farm which strives for a closed ecosystem. ‘Besides the 60 types of crops we grow year round, we also have lots of pigs,’ explains Toh. ‘We fully utilise the animal waste as compost and the filtered waste water is biologically clarified by an elaborate process of bacteria, algae and aqua crop cultivation, before being reused to clean the pig houses. We are working on utilising the bio-gas to generate electricity to power the farm. We also practice crop diversity so soil nutrients are not depleted.’ Not only the soil, but also the pigs are healthy -- they’re free range and listen to music, we’re told.
After his health crisis, Tan realised ‘health is like the ‘1’ in front of a long chain of numbers,’ says Toh. ‘It doesn’t matter how many zeros you have, if you don’t have the 1 in front, you have nothing.’
For farm tours, see www.mahotafarm.com or call 6186 9650.