A Giant Abandoned Glass Factory In China Is A True Factory Farm

Kale and bok choy are sprouting up in this urban farm that houses a field of crops in the port city of Shenzhen.

This is a literal factory farm: Inside the remains of a huge defunct glass factory in a port in Shenzhen, China, there’s a field of crops.


Sprawling over 20,000 square feet, “Value Farm” uses existing brick walls to separate plots of vegetables including kale and bok choy. The bases of old stairs have been turned into platforms and pavilions for events. A newly built pond taps into a natural underground water source to irrigate the plants.

The project was designed by architects last fall as part of the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Biennale, an exhibition that explores ideas in urbanism and architecture between both cities.

Other parts of the abandoned glass manufacturing site, still intact as buildings, have been transformed into a place to produce culture instead of products. “To complement that idea, we reworked a piece of open ground within the factory premises to produce ‘nature,’” says Tris Kee, one of the project’s curators.

Shenzhen residents were invited to help plant the space, and then come back to harvest and taste the food. “Value Farm creates value by cultivating the land as a collective effort,” Kee says. “We’re exploring the possibilities of urban farming in the city and how that can integrate with community-building.”

The exhibition was designed to spark more farming projects. The architects laid out designs explaining, for example, how a market district in Hong Kong could be blanketed in rooftop farms. “This is arguably a viable future for a post-urban Hong Kong, to transform untapped a potential artificial land resource– rooftops–in dense urban areas into productive terrain,” Kee explains.

In Hong Kong, like other cities around the world, there’s already a growing interest in rooftop farming. “Local initiatives stem from residents’ continuing worry about food safety, as well as the obvious attraction of creating a green oasis above the urban chaos,” says Kee. “It’s reconnecting city dwellers with nature, teaching consumers about homegrown food, and offering a more sustainable, accessible food supply.”


Though the Biennale has just closed, and plants have been harvested, the space will likely stay a garden. Kee says the chief curator wants to turn it into a public park.

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.