Superfish Growers is looking to employ about 200 locals in the next five years as the Japanese premium muskmelon producer eyes future expansion, which includes establishing production facilities for muskmelon derivatives to meet rising international demand.
Last year, Superfish Growers has exported about 105 tonnes of Japanese Arus muskmelons to Malaysia and Singapore, with six tonnes already being sold in the Bruneian market.
“It’s been really great to see (the market response), considering how new our product is. It makes us really proud because to create a new market is not easy,” said Business Development Manager, Nur Hazel Lim during an interview with The Bruneian.
With the company’s flagship product getting rave reviews, Superfish Growers is determined to grow bigger and scale up its production, with a desire to broaden the product line of their recently established brand, Melts to include ice cream and even health and beauty supplements.
“Besides looking into value-added items like ice cream, we may want to try producing (health) supplements and beauty products because our melons are high in Vitamin C and are packed with potassium which is good for muscle recovery,” she added.
Even with their big ambitions, Superfish Growers recognizes the need for having complete end-to-end facilities before moving forward, already determined to erect new post-harvest and value-added processing facilities on their 50-hectare land at the Agrotechnology Park in Kg Tungku.
Currently, the farm has one post-harvest facility which is used for the removing of foliage, cleaning, sorting, weighing and packaging of the muskmelons for export with workers comprising of part-time single mothers. This facility also houses cold storage.
The most important factor for the company’s growth, however, is to ensure consistent production, according to Hazel, as their farm’s current capacity stands at 15 to 18 tonnes of muskmelons per month, grown from five greenhouses.
“We are expanding to nine greenhouses by March next year and hoping to complete 27 greenhouses by the end of 2020, so hopefully by 2021 we will be running at full capacity,” she continued.
At 27 greenhouses, Superfish Growers will be able to produce 2,000 tonnes of muskmelons annually, and with each greenhouse needing about seven workers, the company would need more than 180 people at the height of its production.
This is not inclusive of the potential employment opportunities of the company’s commercial expansion which would require a bigger marketing, administration and sales team to manage both their local and international tradings.
Furthermore, coming at the heels of a protocol agreement signed between Brunei’s Ministry of Primary Resources and China’s General Administration of Customs on the export of Brunei-grown muskmelons, Superfish Growers’ increased production is crucial to meet China’s huge market.
Having already engaged with Chinese fruit retail giant Pagoda – which has more than 3,700 stores and 23 warehouses in over 70 cities – the Chinese market alone would require the majority of the premium muskmelon producer’s output.
The business development manager went on to say that Superfish Growers is also keen to engage with local farmers and youths, as the company hopes to build an additional 27 greenhouses for contract farming once the initial 27 are completed.
“They will have to come up with the initial investment for the construction of the greenhouse but we will assist them on the technical side, helping them every step of the way to ensure that the muskmelons they grow fulfill our export standards.
“What we can guarantee is a buyback market, so we will buy and market their products at a certain price, provided that they pass our quality assurance”, she added.
For now, Superfish Growers is content on building up its brand Melts by collaborating with local businesses to develop products that can be derived by the company’s Japanese premium muskmelons.
Having worked with businesses like Butter and Eggs, Bakerlyn, Pan and Wok and the most recent Brew9, Hazel noted how the company is looking to collaborate with more independent and home businesses adding: “It’s a good way to support each other and grow our businesses together”.
“Our ultimate goal is for Melts to be as big and reputable as international brands like Dole and Zespri. We want people to think of us (Melts) whenever they think of melons”.
The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN