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Never look down on farming as career
Published on: Sunday, April 25, 2021
By: Lorena Binisol
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Azizul’s hydroponic farm is located in Mesilau.
AZIZUL Julirin matched his words when he built two pesticide-free vegetable farms in Kundasang – an aquaponics farm in 2016 and hydroponic farm in 2019. 

The Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Bachelor of Science (aquaculture) graduate was adamant to have his own business built from scratch instead of working for others. A choice for which he never looked back.

His first project was a 5,000sq ft aquaponics farm adjacent to his homestay which he built a year earlier and had been frequently visited by many guests. However, due to the MCO the number of visitors had declined.

While his hydroponic farm a few kilometres apart, is the size of 20,000sq ft which he built three years later on a land rented from his relatives.

His first grant was from Tube (Tunas Usahawan Belia Bumiputera) and later obtained another grant via an entrepreneur idea by Pitch Borneo that had assisted him to start the two projects.

Both farms were planted with coral green and purple lettuce vegetables as they are in high demand. His farm could produce about three tonnes of vegetables every month, he said.

Increasingly popular for salad vegetables, Azizul, however, could not meet the request. 

It is, therefore, utmost crucial for him to deliver his thought and knowledge, disseminating as much information as possible to get the young people to consider farming as a promising venture to meet the increasing demand regardless of the circumstances. 

He shared that in the 10 years of preparation, he attended various motivational courses, skills training programmes, seminars acquired both locally and overseas plus his determination had earned him tremendous satisfaction and he became more confident in his dealings.  

He added reading books to gain knowledge is one activity no one should underestimate.

He also provides opportunity to university and college interns to do their practical training which enabled them to gain much confidence in hands-on skills and learnt to be self-reliant.

He said due to popular demand, he exported his produce to neighbouring states Sarawak and Brunei Darussalam.

“For Brunei, we export about one tonne of vegetables every month.  The price is stable and attractive, too,” he said, adding that he also supplies to local restaurants such as McDonald’s, supermarkets and other eateries.

He opined that whether it is big scale, medium or small, vegetable growers should promote safe and healthy food and not otherwise, so as not to damage the health and wellbeing of the people.

His workers and interns seemed to enjoy their work while carrying out their tasks despite being confined inside the tent.

When asked whether they ever get bored staying at the farm and not seeing any other things for their enjoyment, they said they were content with what they have. 

One of them, Mohd Hafsyam Nordin, 35, made a big change in his career when he decided to join the farm as a staff last year during the first phase of MCO. He was previously attached to Information Department in the State capital as a contract worker.

“Not a day have I regretted switching my job. I love it here and I am willing to learn from scratch,” he said.

His ability to sing and play guitar had earned Hafsyam quite a big “fan base” among the staff at the farm, for his jovial and witty attitude.

“How to be bored when you are always asked to sing. It is always fun to entertain while surrounded by nature,” he said, laughing.

Often being invited by various government agencies to promote what he had been advocating for, Azizul enjoys telling people how he started his business and how he evolved over the years despite several setbacks, which he regarded as “good experience”.

“With the right mindset and attitude, I have always believed that every young people of today have their own potential to start anything they want to.

“In this borderless and digital world where we can easily have access to information, we are able to extract whatever information we desire at our fingertips,” he said.

He said it was unfortunate that the pandemic had halted many businesses. But that did not dampen his spirit. Instead, he took it as a time to slow down but still steadily continue his farming activity accordingly.

“During the first phase of the MCO last year, we continued to work in the farm as it was an essential product, however observing all the requirements for SOPs accordingly.

“I also took the time to reflect on what I have achieved over the years since 2010 till today. Reading books was one of my activities during MCO too, and I did not let time go by doing nothing,” he said.

One of his interns who later became his staff, Indah @ Falminah Abdul Yatim from Ranau, shared her gladness to be part of the team, saying working under a young boss who showed enthusiasm had won her admiration towards Azizul.

“Such an exemplary boss, I should say. He continues to motivate us whenever we are with him. This kept us going no matter what the situation is,” said Indah.

Having attended and obtained a certificate in agro technology course, Indah was able to practise what she had learned at the farm did some research works plants and vegetables.

Among her jobs at the farm is looking after seedlings.

“The way we care for seedlings is crucial. We are to ensure sufficient water, good soil. It simply means we must handle it delicately and perhaps calmly.

“With chilly weather in Kundasang, it is surplus environment for this type of salad vegetable,” said Indah.

She was showing her guests how to handle strawberry seedlings and the writer who was curious about it was presented with two pots of the seedlings, which Azizul later challenged her to care for till they bear fruit.

Apart from the vegetables, Azizul also encouraged his staff to experiment other types of plants such as rock-melon, apples and grapes chillies to name a few.

He explained to his guests how he handled the growing of rock melon. He also plucked one of the matured one, cut it open and let them have a bite.

“Delicious! It is sweet and crunchy,” shouted the excited guests.

Before they finished the fruit, Azizul requested them to pose with the sliced rock-melons.

“This is to promote my latest addition in my farm,” he said cheekily.

His latest project is building a two-storey shophouse for his new agriculture school enabling his community in Kundasang to acquire knowledge and skills in agriculture.

He admitted there is still a long way to go in order to assist his fellow residents in Kundasang as there is certainly so much to acquire, such as instilling the mindset of how important farming is to a nation as well as not to be ashamed of the work and so on.

Being officially appointed as trainer by the Human Resources Development Department, Sabah (JPSM), he had trained more than 200 young people around the State since 2018.

To-date, a handful of them had started their own farms in their respective districts and proved they too could emulate Azizul in managing their own business.

“My wish is that for those who have studied and chose their respective fields (other than agriculture), to not disregard or to look down on people who have chosen farming as their career. 

“This is a tremendous vocation and practically there is nothing to be ashamed of at all,” he stressed.

 

Coral Green lettuce is one of the most popular vegetables being exported to neighbouring country like Brunei. 

Azizul holding a meeting with his staff inside the hydroponic farm. 

Azizul explaining how they make their own compost.

Azizul with a rock melon that tastes sweet and crunchy. 

Indah plucking some grapes for the guests to try. 

 

Indah demonstrating strawberry seedlings care. 





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