“Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day, but teach a man how to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime” is a life motto lived by the family of agropreneurs behind Sulaiman Plantation and initiative CocoJack.
CocoJack is a social enterprise that helps B40 youths learn and venture into agriculture with a focus on agritech, which is the family’s way of giving back to the community through the plantation that has fed them well.
As a serial entrepreneur, Syed Sulaiman was a coffee shop owner and chili paste maker prior to CocoJack. In 2006, his entrepreneurial intuition was telling him that agriculture would be the next big thing in the future, so he immediately got to work on it and founded Sulaiman Plantation, a mini-estate for dwarf coconuts (better known as kelapa pandan locally).
Jackfruit And His Son Came Into The Picture
When his coconut business took off, Syed Sulaiman then introduced jackfruits to this plantation. Coconuts and jackfruits are the main crops of the plantation, mostly because they’re the easiest to manage and at the same time their demand is high in Kedah and Pulau Pinang, the former is where they’re based.
When jackfruits became a profitable business, Syed Sulaiman entrusted the plantation to his son, Syed Salleh, who later came up with the name and initiative, CocoJack (a marriage of their main crops’ names). As of now, they have 2 farms in Kedah that total up to 13 acres that house their main crops and also chili and ginger.
When Syed Salleh (whom we will now refer to as Syed) took over the plantation, he had no idea what he was getting himself into, as he had a marketing degree and at most only helped his parents with upkeeping the farm.
However, he sought out governmental programmes that provided youths with agricultural training, a lot of which are organised by the SME Corp such as The Entrepreneur TV3, which he won in 2016.
Syed later also sought out a mentor who fared well in the agriculture industry, and worked with his mentor’s company for 3 years as a farm helper, later climbing to an admin assistant position and a share partner after. In 2019, he returned to his dad’s plantation and took over the business completely.
“I have gone through a time where no one would assist me during my difficulties starting my agriculture project, which is the main reason why I started this initiative,” Syed shared with Vulcan Post.
The CocoJack Heroes Programme
Now the social enterprise portion of their plantation is called CocoJack, whereby interested B40 youths can apply to the programme and go through a bootcamp. Their bootcamp entails courses on hydroponics, fertigation, conventional farming, agrobusiness, pitching sessions, etc.
25 people are selected for each session, and only 5 participants will be selected to go through their 3 to 6-month agropreneur training. On the bright side, the rest of the 20 participants who didn’t get selected can also get assistance from them to get farming solutions and get advice on their own agricultural projects.
The 5 participants selected as CocoJack Heroes will be sent to various courses and seminars related to agriculture and business development, and they’ll also be exposed to the agropreneur life with their farms.
Once their training finishes, they’ll be offered to join CocoJack officially for a contract-based employment.
During this training period, these 5 participants can expect to receive an income of RM800 to RM1,200 per month. When they’re officially working as agropreneurs on their own agricultural projects, they can expect to earn around RM1,800 to RM2,500 per month.
As this is a social enterprise, beneficiaries who are part of their In-Kind Contribution programme will have to contribute 10-15% of their profits to CocoJack, depending on the scale of the projects that have been given to them.
Syed also explained that they usually advise their CocoJack Heroes to take a fixed income from their projects even though their projects are generating more profit during a particular season.
“In our CocoJack module, we don’t only teach our beneficiaries how to plant a tree, we teach them about supply chains as well. Our module is designed to provide guidance from producing up till direct selling, as well as setting up a farm. CocoJack Heroes can also choose which process they want to focus on first instead of wasting time to try out every single stage.”
“Say if a CocoJack Hero wants to focus on setting up a farm and selling input, they can choose to set up their own online store to sell it directly to the end users and clients. Our main agenda here is to make sure our beneficiaries are able to generate income not only through planting,” Syed shared.
The Agritech Behind Their Work
Besides hydroponics and fertigation, CocoJack also employs these other agritech to train their beneficiaries:
- Startup Kapitani‘s bookkeeping app to record farming expenses;
- A CocoJack planting calendar to help record farming activities tree tagging, manuring, spraying pesticides, which they’re still in the process of developing;
- And a smart tagging system to help farmers key in how many fruits a tree is producing.
Syed credits the heavy use of agritech in their initiative to help with making agriculture look more “sexy” to the youths who have always viewed this career path with traditional farming pictured in their heads, making them less interested in becoming an agropreneur.
“I hope that our CocoJack Heroes will be able to stand on their own feet in generating income for their family. I also hope that CocoJack Heroes are able to provide more job opportunities to the locals and be the changing agents that reshape our agriculture industry,” Syed shared with Vulcan Post.
“I believe that our youths are able to revolutionise our agriculture industry and help our country with food security, and at the same time reduce the unemployment among youths in Malaysia.”Syed Salleh, founder of CocoJack
Featured Image Credit: Syed Salleh, founder of CocoJack