Hong Kong Baptist University is to launch the city's first-ever course in agriculture during the 2019-20 semester.
The four-year undergraduate degree program, to be offered by the university's Department of Biology, will focus on agricultural science and bio-resource, according to department head Jonathan Wong Woon-chung.
The curriculum enables students to take courses on knowledge and skills in biology and agricultural science, agricultural management and other professional training areas, including research methodologies, field skills and statistical tools.
The program will work with the Hong Kong Organic Resource Centre on a training course in organic certification.
Wong said multiple courses and technical training will equip students with a variety of competitiveness in industries related to agriculture, food, environment and animal protection.
He believes there's a demand for agricultural education in Hong Kong. Although the local agriculture and fisheries industry does not make a significant contribution to the GDP, it still plays a role in the city's food market with its unique advantages, he said.
“Hong Kong has developed a thriving urban organic agriculture. Local agricultural production not only meets part of the local demand for fresh vegetables, stabilizing food supply, but also guarantees food safety under a series of strict food detection,” said Wong.
Alan Wong Chi-kong, former director of agriculture, fisheries and conservation, said the course will give young people more career choices.
"Modern agriculture is not merely about farming and harvesting, it's also about branding and marketing," he said.
Many Hong Kong farms are trying to develop an enterprise-like operation model that requires people to engage in agriculture to understand management and the market, he added.
Hong Kong, as a cosmopolitan city with little farming tradition, had only 7 square kilometers out of the territory's 1,106 sq km of land area farmed last year. About 4,300 farmers, or about 0.11 percent of the city’s workforce, were engaged in agriculture, according to the latest annual report by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.
Jonathan Wong said the program will help implement the New Agriculture Policy introduced in 2016, which promotes organic agriculture as a sustainable option. The policy was mentioned in Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s 2018 Policy Address, in which she said the government will support farmers in adding value to their products through, among other things, marketing of products and brand building, with HK$500 million in funds.
The policy also proposes to stimulate agriculture-related leisure and educational activities, which HKBU’s program also plans to cover. Also to be included into the curriculum will be agricultural risk management and sustainable development-related courses, according to Jonathan Wong.
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