Building greenhouse with the aim of creating jobs for youth with developmental disabilities in South Korea

The boom of smart farming is bringing various developments and changes to the Korean society as well as its agricultural industry. Related to this development, the Agricultural Counsellor at the Dutch embassy in Seoul, has visited the Purme foundation and learned about a very special projects underway. This foundation introduces the Dutch concept and advanced  technology to build a greenhouse for young people with developmental disabilities to work. The final result will include a care-farm programme.

Smart Farm project by Purme Foundation
©Purme Foundation

The Purme Foundation

The Purme Foundation, established in 2005, is a non-profit organization which supports independence and rehabilitation of disabled people. With the donation and participation of citizens and corporations, disabled children and teenagers receive rehabilitation to improve their emotionally and physically health, and become a part of society in the future. 

In 2015, the ‘Purme Foundation Nexon Children's Rehabilitation Hospital’ was established with the efforts of more than 10,000 citizens, 500 companies, organizations and local governments. Daily about 500 disabled children are treated in this hospital which adds up to about 150,000 children per year. Following the rehabilitation hospital project, the nation's first smart farm construction project for the disabled youth is currently being constructed as a major project of the foundation, based on the motivation of national responsibility for those who have developmental disabilities.

The Purme Smart Farm project

A year ago, one couple operating a farm in Yeoju, province Gyeonggi, donated 11,800m2 of their farmland to the Purme Foundation with a value of over 3 billion won (2.2million Euro) . The only condition for the donation by this couple, who have a son with developmental disabilities, was to create a safe and better environment for other young people with similar disabilities and to build a smart farm where they could come and farm using their hands in. 

The Purme Foundation, which received site donation from this couple, promised to build the nation's first smart farm for youths with disabilities and has been raising funds through multilateral agreements as well as donations from citizens. The SK Hynix which is a South Korean memory semiconductor supplier of the world’s second-largest memory chipmaker, located close to the site, donated 2.5 billion won in construction of high-tech greenhouse and signed an agreement to purchase agricultural products which would be produced from this smart farm. Also the Korea Employment Agency for the Disabled, the state-run project for renewable energy facilities, and the Korea District Heating Corporation joined forces for this fundraising.

Benchmarking Dutch technology and care-farm programme

In 2018 a group of officials from the Foundation visited the Netherlands for this project to learn about Dutch high-tech greenhouse system and care-farm. They have been to the Almere City Farm, Agriport A7, Tomato World, Kwekerij 't Voske, Hoogsewetering to get inspiration for the advanced Dutch agricultural technology such as how to maximize energy efficiencies, high productivity of various tomato varieties, automated equipment for mushroom cultivation. Also, they visited some care-farms such as Eekhoeve and Hoeve Klein Mariendaal as they are planning to adopt Dutch care-farm programme to this greenhouse. 

To provide a smart farm greenhouse where people with developmental disabilities can work in a safer environment, the foundation aims to introduce high-tech greenhouse to grow tomatoes, strawberries, mushrooms and to integrate care-farm programme of the Netherlands in its facilities. In addition to crop cultivation and care-farm, it is also planning to create various businesses and new employment through operating restaurants, shops and space rental. The project has begun construction in September this year with the aim of completion in 2021, and the foundation plans to have full-scale operation of all facilities by 2022.

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