The Edible Roof Initiative

Department: Landscape Architecture
Active Dates: January 2012 – 2019

Project Title: The Edible Roof Initiative

Project team:
P-I: Matthew Pryor
Andrew Tsui – Rooftop Republic (HK)
Sam Hui CM  (HKU)
Stephen Lau (NUS)
Zhang Xiaohu (HKU)

 Project funding: 

Green Roof Landscape Practicum. HKU Teaching Development Grant, (PI – M. Pryor, HKU), (2012-13)

Edible Roofs. HKU Knowledge Exchange Impact Grant, (PI – M. Pryor, Co-I – Christ, M.C., HKU), (2012-13)
A pair of grants to develop a Landscape Practicum course for the BA(LS) program, and to undertake research on the development of productive rooftop farming in Hong Kong, through the construction of a demonstration project on the Runme Shaw Building at HKU, and the compilation of a best practice book on rooftop farming in high density cities.

General Research Fund, Mapping the potential for productive rooftop farming in high density cities, (PI – M. Pryor, Co-I’s – Stephen Lau, Sam Hui CM, Andrew Tsui, Zhang Xiaohu).  Analytical study to determine the potential application of rooftop farming in high density cities such as Hong Kong. (2016-2019)
The study will analyse existing rooftop, vertical and urban farming operations in relation to building structural and environmental modelling data, and define the limits of possible rooftop farming operations at both community enterprise and commercial scales. These will then be spatially mapped across the city using existing buildings data.


Many dwellers in high density cities have a strong desire to grow their own vegetables and contribute to a more sustainable urban life style, but lack the space to do so.    Over the past ten years a growing number of individuals and community groups in different cities across the world have begun to activate unutilized grey building roof spaces in the city to create and run sustainable productive gardens.  These initiatives are unplanned and spontaneous, but collectively offer a significant prospect of a new type of urban landscape which embodies not only green elements, but also very strong social, recreational and public health aspects.  Conditions on a roof are different from those encountered at ground level. This research initiative addresses the unique environmental, technical and operational issues involved in productive farming on building structures, with a view to establishing best practice, and to identifying the potential benefits to the built environment and urban. The outcome of the studies will help to inform the current discussion on the legitimacy of rooftop farming as green building coverage, and help to define potential for food sufficiency within urban areas. The outputs of these studies are directly relevant to any high density city in a tropical or sub-tropical climate.

Outcomes and outputs

Academic publications
Pryor. M.R., The Edible Roof: A Guide to Productive Rooftop Gardening.  MCCM Creations, Hong Kong, 2016, 220.!the-edible-roof/c1szf  (book)

Pryor, M. (2015) Productive green roofs.  Yuan Lin, Journal of the Hong Kong Institute of Landscape Architects. 2015  (academic article)

Conference presentations, lectures and workshops
Pryor, M. Sustainability @ HKU. China Green Building (Hong Kong) Council. China Green Campus Forum. 19 Jun 2015  (invited speaker)

Pryor, M. Edible Roof.  Urban Farm : DIY. General Education Unit – Rooftop Farming Course (GE2014-04).  (Nov 2014) (invited lecture)

Upcycle : Recycle Workshop (Organizer) Collaborative workshop for the students of the Hong Kong School of Creativity at Kowloon Tong. (Oct-Nov 2013)

Other creative outputs
HKU Rooftop Farm. Construction, operation and monitoring of a full-scale demonstration project on HKU’s Runme Shaw Building.  The farm was built as a teaching exercise by a team from the Division of Landscape Architecture, and has been successfully operated for more than four years by HKU Edible Rooftop farm (which has over 50 active members, and some 400 followers).

Technical advisor for the construction and operation of other productive roof top farms, including: Australian Int’l School; Simon K Y Lee Students Hall; HKICC School of Creativity; and Singapore Int’l School.

Anticipated Outputs
Environmental performance of productive green roofs (w/ Sam Hui CM, HKU Engineering) (academic paper, est. 2018)

Map of potential productive rooftop farming in high density cities (academic paper, est. 2018)

Building rooftop conditions determining potential for productive use (academic paper, est. 2017)

Case studies in rooftop farming Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok. (academic paper, est. 2017)

Growing on the roof. A social history of rooftop farming in Hong Kong.  Publisher MCCM Creations (est. 2017)

The HK Urban Rooftop Farming Network. Collaborative seminar / website (August 2016)

Quotation / endorsement

“There is an urban farming movement already underway. It is led by local civic groups and there is a pressing need to equip and empower city dwellers seeking to embark on this urban farming experience. As urban farmers, it is our strong conviction that urban farming should offer much more to cities than just a wonderful hobby, or opportunities to get in touch with nature, or to educate the next generation about the environment. For these in-city farming spaces are an effective relational platform that urban communities need for people to reconnect with their food sources and with one another.”
Andrew Tsui. Co-Founder. Rooftop Republic

Press reviews

Apple Daily Book Review (3 Jan 2016)
Mask9 China Book Review (23 Jan 2016)
The Standard News Book Corner (29 Jan 2016)
The Rail Monthly (2016-1/2)
HKET newspaper (3 Mar 2016)
HK01-weekly (11 Mar 2016)
HKU Bulletin Review (May 2016)


Enlarge Photo: The Edible Roof Initiative 1Enlarge Photo: The Edible Roof Initiative 2