air of so­phis­ti­ca­tion

Would you spend US$100 on a breath of fresh air? Madeleine Ross in­ves­ti­gates the rise of “air farm­ing,” and whether it’s worth splurg­ing on one fine gasp

Hong Kong Tatler - - August - Il­lus­tra­tions BERNARD CHAU

Would you spend US$100 on a breath of fresh air? We in­ves­ti­gate the rise of “air farm­ing,” and whether it’s worth splurg­ing on one fine gasp

We like to think of our­selves as the Her­mès of air,” says Moses Lam, founder of Cana­dian start-up Vi­tal­ity Air. The 32 year-old for­mer mort­gage bro­ker rep­re­sents an emerg­ing class of en­trepreneurs who re­fer to them­selves as “air farm­ers.” In their quest to trans­form fresh air into a com­mod­ity, th­ese at­mo­spheric agron­o­mists travel to places renowned for their pu­rity—be­fore bot­tling, can­ning or jar­ring the air that they then flog, at a premium, to con­sumers in pol­luted parts of Asia.

“Places like China and In­dia are huge for us. There is great pol­lu­tion there, but also huge pop­u­la­tions,” says Lam. “Korea is re­ally phe­nom­e­nal for us as well be­cause the pol­lu­tion from China blows over.” Lam, who started his business in 2014, col­lects air from Banff and Lake Louise in Canada’s Rocky Moun­tains, which he sells in sin­gle cans, twin packs or five-packs. “Our typ­i­cal cus­tomer is rich, knowl­edge­able and well trav­elled. Most en­joy the finer things in life: nice time­pieces like Rolex watches and im­ported cars like BMWS and Fer­raris.”

Sim­i­lar com­pa­nies have sprung up since Lam launched Vi­tal­ity Air. Aethaer, founded at the end of 2015 by 28 year-old Bri­ton Leo

De Watts, sells air from Wales, Wilt­shire, Dorset, Som­er­set and York­shire in Kil­ner­style air­tight jars for £80 (HK$810) a pop. De Watts says his air gift packs, which in­clude air from var­i­ous lo­ca­tions, are par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar with Main­land Chi­nese con­sumers around Chi­nese New Year. “Peo­ple tra­di­tion­ally give lai see pack­ets to their friends and col­leagues to wish them health and pros­per­ity for the year ahead. With air pol­lu­tion be­ing such a big issue, money is great— but re­ally, what they need is clean fresh air,” says De Watts.

Green & Clean, which is based in Australia, gath­ers air from the likes of Syd­ney’s Bondi Beach, Blue Moun­tains and the Gold Coast.

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