There is a catch-22 that often comes in the drive towards agriculture.
Although self-sufficiency and sustainability are touted as the rationale for progressing the industry forward, agricultural practices can sometimes prove to be calamitous to the Earth.
However, in this modern-day and age, where the preservation of our planet is put center stage, many have made it their goal to make the world greener.
One such individual is Lim Jun Hong of Mori Farm, Brunei’s only producer of Moringa powder, which is grounded from the leaves of the Moringa tree, also known locally as the ‘Merunggai’.
Considered as a nutritional powerhouse, the green powder has been likened to other superfoods like Matcha and Spirulina, and it is steadily gaining ground as a food supplement for its many health benefits.
The Moringa is chock full of vitamins with six times more calcium than milk, nine times more fibre than broccoli, three times more iron than spinach and six times more potassium than bananas.
“We chose Moringa because we knew Moringa was a super beneficial plant, we have heard stories about how it was used, some use the leaves as a paste for antiseptics and you have all these traditional medicine journals talking about them,” said Lim.
Although the farm was established in 2017, Mori Farm’s Moringa powder only entered the market early 2019, after two years of research development, having to tend to the quality of the soil and the produce without using chemical fertilizers.
At its current capacity, Mori Farm produces about 500 packets a month, each packet holding a hundred grams of Moringa powder, which can be found on the shelves of supermarkets nationwide, including all branches of Supa Save.
With more than ten thousand Moringa trees currently growing in the three-hectare piece of land in Sinaut, Tutong, Mori Farm also features different local herbs and fruit including Dill, Mint, Lemongrass and Pisang Raja.
“For the first two years, we actually didn’t see any sales, which is interesting now because we were not sure of how it will perform since the product was just too new to the Bruneian market.
“When it comes to the market for Moringa, it is funny because it is something that is known in the local community, elders often use in their cooking because they know the health benefits that come with it.
“So in terms of what we had to do and what we have to do, is to market the Moringa powder to the younger generation with the same reasons why it was used by the older generation”, he said.
Thus, the marketing for the Moringa powder, according to Lim, had to shift gears and take a more creative route by implementing collaborations with local vendors that can utilize Moringa powder as an ingredient.
“Moringa latte, pasta, pancakes and mochi, it is all about getting creative with the ingredients, that is part of what we do, its to think about how to use it and how it will taste like, as opposed to just growing it,” he said.
Initially driven by the desire to grow and develop crops native to Borneo, the agricultural practices at Mori Farm have gone beyond mere production, however, but rather focusing on the preservation of natural elements through permaculture.
“Here we practice permanent agriculture or permaculture, which is essentially farming with the land rather than just on the land,” said the 25-year-old Lim.
Through permaculture, Lim puts emphasis on soil health and generating a system that can mimic a natural forest, hoping to reach a level of automation within the farm’s ecosystem that facilitates the natural production of beneficial bacteria and nutrients.
By producing their own fertilizers through composting and mulching via organic waste, Lim wants to establish a nutrition loop that will ensure long-lasting and better-tasting produce.
With Lim being a mechanical engineering graduate with no background in agriculture, adopting these permaculture practices did not come easy, with a steep learning curve that required some knowledge of natural ecosystems and bacterial behaviour.
“The learning was intense, what I knew of agriculture were general things that other people would know like how plants are grown but permaculture is a different beast.
“There are so many different factors to think about, right down to the microbiological level like tending to bacteria which is a whole new world in itself,” he continued.
Their core produce, the Moringa has also been proven to be beneficial to the farmland, able to impact the yield of its surrounding flora, by “fixing” nitrogen to the soil which is essential for plant growth.
Even the role of insects is taken into consideration following permaculture practices, as beneficial bugs need to help keep the pest population down.
Ultimately, for this 25-year-old entrepreneur, business and profit are just part of a puzzle in a much bigger picture, one that is intended to present local consumers with the economical and pharmacological value of the sultanate’s biodiversity.
“For Mori Farm, we are determined to expand our business in the future, so that we can capture the attention a wider range of people, showcase our products and introduce our philosophy to people’s lifestyle”.
The Bruneian | TUTONG