As populations in China and Hong Kong grow and space for farming rapidly runs out, governments are looking for the answer to the question of how they will feed swelling ranks of people.
With little land suitable for farming, both the mainland and the SAR are heavily dependent on imports, and as the concrete jungle spreads further, chronic food shortages are feared.
Spanish architect Javier Ponce has come up with an award-winning idea that he says could be a solution for Hong Kong.
Dyv-nets - or Dynamic Vertical Networks - are towering, 187.5-metre-high farming units that he has proposed for Tai Po district.
Ponce, of JAPA architects in Barcelona, told the Post he wanted to "take vertical urban farming to the next level" and respond to the needs of fast-growing cities.
"Since Hong Kong has a predominant verticality and a lack of buildable space, it could be interesting to reinterpret this verticality and propose this new type of vertical farming on the city's outskirts," he said.
Made from lightweight recycled materials, the towers would grow food hydroponically on a series of rotating floor-plates that would give crops the maximum amount of sunlight, inspired by the shifting terraces in traditional Chinese rice farming.
The Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department said it had not received a formal approach from the company, but added: "Subject to the availability of more information, we are interested in exploring whether the proposal is feasible in Hong Kong."
The Planning Department confirmed it had received a planning application from JAPA and that it was considering the proposal.
The units would be designed as "biodiversity hubs", with a wide range of habitats, and would also feature 360-degree viewing platforms for visitors.
The architect said he had chosen Tai Po as a site for the project after researching Hong Kong's vertical growth, the city's density and the geographic landscape of the area, including Tai Po Market and Tai Po Town.
The proximity of the towers to the Kowloon-Hong Kong area would be ideal for a low-cost, low-mileage food distribution network that could feed the city's population, he added.
JAPA said it predicted a shift to more "vertical agriculture structures" on the mainland, which could be integrated into a territorial network across the country.
"We believe growing cities in China are potential targets to introduce in their outskirts a series of Dyv-nets, bringing agriculture closest to the urban centres and creating a new productive landscape," Ponce said.
Ponce said the firm was in the process of contacting authorities in other Asian cities, but declined to say which cities it had approached. But he said it saw China and Singapore as "perfect countries to start testing the Dyv-net initiative".
"The opportunity to reduce food mileage as well as carbon dioxide emissions and to explore different forms of vertical agriculture is crucial for a sustainable future," he said.