Entrepreneur

This M'sian Couple Turned Over A New Health Leaf, Founded A Growing Business Along The Way

There’s a rising awareness across the local community about the importance of organic produce and its relationship with the environment.

Plucked is one farm in Janda Baik, Pahang with a steady mission of growing organic fruits and vegetables while specialising in kale production.

Started by a husband and wife duo, their farm has been growing for about 2 years now, but they only began selling their produce a year ago.

Seeds of inspiration

Wong Wing Kin is 40 years old and in the construction business as a steel trader.

“He is the brains behind the farm, focusing on the overall operations and production of the farm and everything that goes with it,” his wife Chia Tsu-wen told us.

“I made the decision to leave my job in banking a couple of years ago to concentrate on the kids and family. I now handle the sales and marketing of Plucked’s produce.”

The inspiration behind starting up Plucked was Wing Kin and Tsu-wen’s desire to have access to fresh produce, preferably organic, at an affordable price.

Image Credit: Plucked

They also wanted their children “to just muck around in the dirt and build a stronger appreciation for the environment”, Tsu-wen shared.

“We’re both passionate about getting fresh produce to feed the family. Wing Kin is also a talented home cook and his interest in cooking was what inspired him to start up the farm.”

“What was at first an experiment for the family turned into a venture to give others the opportunity to eat truly farm-fresh produce,” Tsu-wen said.

Tipping the s-kale-s

Plucked is trying to solve the accessibility of good, clean produce that’s brought directly from the farm to customers.

“We started this journey because we didn’t have convenient, affordable access to organic produce. As we speak to more and more people, we find that they have the same gripes as well,” Tsu-wen shared.

One thing that may discourage us from buying organic produce is the price. More often than not, the cost of going organic far exceeds the cost of just buying pesticide-riddled produce.

Why is it so expensive?

Tsu-wen told us what goes on behind the scenes, saying, “A lot of organic produce comes at premium prices but you will find that this doesn’t trickle down to the farmers.”

Image Credit: Plucked

“Rather, it’s a reflection of all the other efforts to get organic produce on the shelves—i.e. logistics, storage, listing fees, to name a few.”

“Organic produce is generally more sensitive to the elements—they tend to wilt faster in hot weather and dry out quicker in the fridge,” Tsu-wen said.

Therefore, the premium costs we see on the shelves are due to the “extra” efforts of stockists in ensuring the produce stays fresh.

“This is also why you tend to find produce, especially organic produce, wrapped to death in plastic,” she shared.

Plucked cuts out the middleman fee by dealing directly with end consumers, which also gives them better control on the end-to-end logistics of their produce.

Tsu-wen admitted that Plucked is able to do this because they’re still a small farm with not a lot of produce to sell.

“But we learn as we grow, literally,” she said, “And we are committed to continuously upping our game to deliver the freshest possible produce to our customers.”

Putting in effort to be the cream of the crop

Plucked selects brands that resonate well with their brand and mission and a few of these brands are stockists like honestbee Malaysia, Real Food Mont Kiara and The Hive Bulk Foods.

“So far, we’ve been in business for a year, so all our partnerships are still at the development stage.”

They check in with their stockists regularly for feedback and strategies on what would work better for the stockists and their customers.

Plucked doesn’t just keep its deliveries fresh—it also tries to keep its packaging environmentally-friendly as much as a possible without sacrificing quality.

Image Credit: Plucked

“We package our kale in paper and sometimes just bamboo string, and then place them in paper bags to ensure they aren’t squashed during transit.”

“As much as possible, we try to reuse paper bags and have found a very supportive community of customers who are more than happy to recycle their bags with us,” Tsu-wen shared.

Turning over a new leaf

Starting up Plucked was no smooth sailing for Tsu-wen and Wing Kin. Their farm was hit by a bug infestation early on after making the decision to go commercial with their organic produce.

Even while they were desperate for solutions to their predicament, they rejected the easy way out of using pesticides.

Instead, they chucked everything and started all over again. During their struggle, they learned two things.

First of all, “Don’t take even one bug lightly,” Tsu-wen said. “Today we take extra precautions and check daily for bugs. We also act quickly because these insects breed at the speed of light.”

Secondly, “people are supportive as long as you stay true to your objectives.”

Some of Plucked’s customers pre-paid their orders while waiting for the farm to get back on its feet, and Tsu-wen said that it helped bring back some confidence in their ability to turn things around.

The team behind Plucked emerged from the 6-month setback worn but stronger and wiser, and have continued to have blossoming operations.

They also have bigger ambitions.

“We envision Plucked to be the brand for all things fresh and salad-ready. We’re now expanding—building more houses for different types of salad greens and everything that goes along with it,” Tsu-wen said.

Rethinking our kale-orie intake

When we asked Plucked why they decided to specialise in kale, Tsu-wen answered, “We felt that it wasn’t as easily available in the market and would create a natural interest in our brand.”

“We then further developed the proposition around what we felt was important to us as a young family—trustworthy produce that was fresh and easily accessible.”

“Our final hurdle was to take up the challenge of shifting the mindset that imported produce was superior to local ones.”

Plucked wants to encourage Malaysians to make the healthier choice in foods, and to let them know that it doesn’t take a nutritionist or a 5-star chef to create healthy meals.

According to them, we can all start on this health-conscious journey with one ingredient—kale.

“Kale is a great introduction to healthier eating because you get so much out of this one item,” Twu-wen said.

“It’s very versatile and can be eaten raw or cooked, and is easily included into your daily meals—in rendang, masak lemak, chopped up for your kerabu, or just simply stir-fried with garlic.”

Aside from selling organic produce, Plucked wants to educate people on choosing their food wisely.

“Don’t just look at the price point. Get educated about how your food is grown, where it comes from, and the nutritional value you get from it.”

“Think of it as an investment in your health. If you’re willing to spend RM10 on a cup of coffee, why not a pack of kale that you can do so much more with?” Tsu-wen reasoned.

  • Find out more about Plucked here.

 

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