The hobby of growing organic vegetables turns into a business

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From left: Jonathan, Mark, William and Mike.

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

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

William, general manager of Swasana Hijau, said their planting method is hydroponics, a sustainable growing technology.

“It started as a hobby in our free 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 to research and produce different types of vegetables until we finally talked about trying this out commercially.

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

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

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

“This is one of many reasons why we chose hydroponics as we see this as the future of farming not just in Malaysia but around the world,” emphasized William.

Swasana Hijau, he said, is also noting that more and more people are choosing to eat organic food, and as such wants to ensure consumers have a steady supply of healthy, environmentally-sustainable vegetables.

“People want healthy food options. This trend has been continuing in other countries for many years. The more we understand about the environment and the impact of farming practices on the environment, the more people are interested in where their food comes from and how it affects the environment. Hydroponics solves this problem as it is healthy for people and the planet,” he added.

Swasana Hijau produces several varieties of lettuce as they are popular with consumers in the state.

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

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

“We knew we could produce this at an affordable retail price for the people of Sabah.

Harvested straight from farm to grocery store in just a few days, the product is very fresh yet contains high nutritional value, which is good for our consumers,” he said.

But it’s not just about business for Swasana Hijau, as the company will soon launch an internship program for Sabahan youth interested in sustainable farming practices.

William announced that Swasana Hijau is offering the internship program because the company’s directors, who are youth themselves, want to educate the youth of Sabah on the benefits of using smart farming solutions like hydroponics.

“If we can convey these ideas, we hope that they will take this knowledge with them in their lives and that this knowledge can have a positive impact on our environment. Sabah is blessed with amazing natural wonders and we must protect them, it is our way of influencing that,” he stressed.

Hydroponics, Willian said, will be a popular farming technique in Sabah and Swasana Hijau wants it to grow even more as this farming technique not only protects the environment but can also contribute to the state’s food security.

“The state and country are facing food security issues, and hydroponics has already proven to be a green, healthy and sustainable way of farming around the world. Some of our neighboring countries have already started to integrate smart farming solutions, including hydroponics, into their future development plans,” he said.

When asked about Swasana Hijau’s advice for young people in Sabah who want to venture into business, William said that hard work and persevering in the face of setbacks will help them succeed.

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






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