While other urban farmers try to grow fruit, vegetables, and herbs in and around their homes, Mr Ng Sze Kiat has chosen to focus his efforts on a more unusual crop - lingzhi mushrooms.
Mr Ng, 35, tends to his delicate fungus in a fruiting chamber placed just outside his bedroom.
Lingzhi mushrooms, which are typically cultivated for their medicinal properties in traditional Chinese medicine, are very difficult to grow as they require a highly-controlled and clean environment.
"Everything has to be done at just the right time. No part of the process can be too rushed or too slow," said Mr Ng, who started on the project in April this year.
When his first batch of lingzhi mushrooms got contaminated, he had to move them from the fruiting chamber to the backyard of the terrace house, where he lives with his parents and older sister.
Mr Ng is not looking to profit from his crop of mushrooms.
He is growing them for his mother, who is in remission from cancer.
Lingzhi mushrooms are used to treat cancer in traditional Chinese medicine as they contain phytochemicals called triterpenes, which have anti-cancer properties.
"When my mum was suffering from cancer, I found out that medicinal mushrooms like lingzhi make really good anti-cancer medicine," said Mr Ng.
A WHOLE NEW WORLD
"So, I did a bit more research about them and it opened up a whole new world."
Mr Ng declined to reveal what type of cancer his mother had, except to say she was diagnosed in 1993.
On top of this personal project, cultivating lingzhi mushrooms in his own home is helping Mr Ng gather knowledge for his job.
Mr Ng, who used to work as a multidisciplinary artist, is a full-time fungi cultivator for social enterprise Edible Garden City.
The social enterprise designs, builds and maintains gardens in urban areas.
To grow lingzhi mushrooms in his home, Mr Ng put together two large rectangular plastic boxes, a few disposable plastic containers and a pressure cooker.
The pressure cooker is used to sterilise his tools to prevent contamination when treating the mushrooms while the plastic boxes and containers are used to make up the fruiting chamber.
There are numerous steps to growing lingzhi mushrooms, which take two months.
His success rate has improved from about 40 per cent when he started to about 80 per cent now.
In all, Mr Ng has spent about $600 on his lingzhi mushroom farm.
He adds that he has been testing the mushrooms on himself. He will continue to try them for another month before he offers them to his mother.
Mr Ng's family members are supportive of what he does, and some have approached him to ask to try his lingzhi mushrooms, but he has declined to share them.
He wants to be certain that his mushrooms are safe for consumption first.
And then he intends to give them to his mother.
Mr Ng said, "I need to be responsible for what I produce and the best person to be responsible to would be myself.
"I feel that I need direct experience."
When asked if he has plans to commercialise his home garden, he said he sees his development of lingzhi mushrooms only as a hobby.
He has no plans to turn it into a business.
"I'm still at a very small scale and I can't make kilograms of lingzhi mushrooms to sell in order to be sustainable," he said.
This article was first published on December 28, 2015.
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