(Originally published on AVA Facebook)
Jean grew up on bean sprouts. Her parents started Ser Poh farm in 1992 with just two workers. Today, the farm has 12 full-time workers.
As her parents were nearing retirement age, she decided to take over the business. This was a natural decision, as she did not want to see the fruits of her parents’ labour go to waste.
She also felt that she made the right decision to enter the farming sector, thanks to the support from the government, fellow farmers, and loyal customers.
“I feel a responsibility to sustain the farm and continue its contribution to Singapore's food security. I was proud to be a farmer's daughter, but now I want to be a proud farmer!”
Learning from Scratch
When Jean went into the business full-time, she focused on the farm’s operations. This included learning how bean sprouts are grown.
For those unfamiliar with bean sprouts, the sowing to harvesting process only takes 4 days. They are grown indoors, away from the sun, and only need water and nutrients!
However, the learning process was just a humble beginning to the more challenging aspects of her job that were ahead of her.
She recounted an example: “As a young farmer having to manage older workers, I was asked why there was a need to change, especially if the same method or process was used for over 20 years. Luckily, that was only an issue at the start, as I’ve gradually gained their trust and confidence.”
Sowing the Seeds of Technology
Jean feels that the use of automation at Ser Poh is necessary to increase productivity. In recent years, Ser Poh has invested in automated and high-tech equipment, mostly imported from overseas.
One of the machines that they invested in with the help of AVA’s Agriculture Productivity Fund (APF) was the auto-packing machine (as shown in photo). It can pack bean sprouts up to three times faster than the current machine.
Other than looking out for new technological and automation processes, Jean likes to be as hands-on as possible around the farm. “My typical day at work revolves around understanding what my workers are doing because that’s the best way to learn.”
‘Bean’ There Done That
Jean has two younger brothers who may be joining her at the farm in a few years’ time, when her parents retire. Jean has started to involve her brothers in marketing/selling the products at SG Farmers’ Markets.
The bean sprout-shaped pens and quick recipes for bean and soybean sprouts – Jean’s ideas to draw in the younger crowd - are popular with consumers at the farmers’ markets. “Sometimes, it takes a younger generation to come up with fresh ideas to bring the brand forward.”
On what she thinks may attract young people to join the industry, she said, “Job fulfilment – few jobs offer the same satisfaction as a farmer. After all, we are responsible for feeding people with safe and fresh produce. That, and flexible hours!”
Sprouting a Successful Business
Ser Poh currently counts wet markets and wholesalers as their main customers. Jean hopes to branch out to more retailers and reach out to more consumers.
“In the next few years, we will be doing more engagement with consumers at upcoming farmers’ markets. In the longer term, we also hope to introduce other varieties of sprouts to consumers.”
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Last updated on Tuesday, April 14, 2020