Hobby to grow organic veges develops into business

From left: Jonathan, Mark, William and Mike.

PENAMPANG (Sept 10): What started as a hobby to provide fresh organic vegetables for their family and friends has grown into a full-blown business for a group of friends in Penampang.

After some trial and error, Swasana Hijau Sdn Bhd was set up in Kampung Rugading Babagon in 2019 and is now a full-time career for William Bishop and partners, Mike Ford, Jonathan Chin, Mark Chin.

William who is Swasana Hijau’s general manager said their method of planting is hydroponics which is a sustainable farming technology.

“It started as a hobby in our spare time to produce fresh vegetables for our families and friends. Once we got the system up and running, we all really enjoyed the work so we continued researching and producing different types of vegetables until finally we had a conversation about trying this commercially.

“We decided to give it a go and have been off and running ever since. It’s been a lot of hard work and learning but we still enjoy the work and the satisfaction of creating healthy, environmentally sustainable vegetables for people to enjoy,” he said.

Swasana Hijau, he said, cares about the environment and all the company’s directors are all interested in sustainable farming practices.

Sustainable farming through hydroponics means Swasana Hijau is able to produce high quality vegetables without needing to use herbicides or pesticides which can be bad for the environment by running off into our rivers and streams and polluting those areas.

“This is one of many reasons we choose hydroponics as we see this as the future of farming not only in Malaysia but all over the world,” William stressed.

Swasana Hijau, he said, also noted that more and more people are now choosing organic food products for consumption and therefore it wants to ensure that consumers will have a steady supply of healthy, environmentally sustainably produced vegetables.

“People want to have healthy food options. This trend has already been going on for many years in other countries. As we understand more about the environment and farming practices’ effect on the environment, people are becoming more interested about where their food comes from and how it affects the environment. Hydroponics solves that issue as it’s healthy for people and the planet,” he added.

Swasana Hijau produces several varieties of lettuce as it is popular among consumers in the state.

According to William, they tried planting many different types of vegetables during the research and development process.

“One of the reasons we focused on lettuce was that we were surprised that most of the organic or hydroponic lettuce we found in grocery stores were all being imported from Peninsular Malaysia or Australia.

“We knew this was something we could produce at an affordable retail price for people in Sabah.

Harvested directly from farm to grocery in only a few days the product is very fresh and still contains high nutrient value which is good for our consumers,” he said.

But it is not all about business for Swasana Hijau as the company will soon be embarking on an internship program for Sabahan youths who are interested in sustainable agricultural practices.

William disclosed that Swasana Hijau is offering the internship program as the company’s directors, who are youths themselves, want to educate youths of Sabah about the benefits of using smart farming solutions like hydroponics.

“If we can teach these ideas the hope is they will carry that knowledge with them as they go about their lives and that knowledge will be able to have a positive impact on our environment. Sabah is blessed with amazing natural wonders and we need to protect those, this is our way to impact that,” he pointed out.

Hydroponics, Willian said, will be a popular farming method in Sabah and Swasana Hijau wants to see it grow even more as this method of farming not only protects the environment, it also can help in providing food security for the state.

“The state and the country are facing food security issues and hydroponics has already shown worldwide to be a green, healthy and sustainable way to farm. Some of our neighbouring countries have already started integrating smart farming solutions, including hydroponics in their future development plans,” he said.

William when asked for Swasana Hijau’s advice to youths in Sabah who want to venture into business, said that hard work and not giving up when faced by setbacks will help them to succeed.

“The point here is you can’t succeed without trying and if you fail or have setbacks learn from the experience and use that knowledge to improve. If you are hardworking and driven to succeed there’s not much you can’t do,” he said.

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