Connect with us

Business

Phuket Business Feature: Hydroponics – a happy medium

Legacy Phuket Gazette

Published 

 on 

PHUKET: Located about a kilometer west of Chao Fah West road, en route to the Big Buddha, the DN hydroponic farm is not the bustling business operation it might at first seem.

“I can supply large orders, but this is really just a hobby,” insists Pakdee “Doo” Khruthanang.

Ms Pakdee’s primary hat is running her business, West Coast Divers, which specializes in live-aboard trips to the Similan islands.

“Business in tourism, especially in the dive industry, goes up and down, and thus is not always reliable in terms of steady and stable income,” she says.

The instability of such a seasonal industry drove Ms Pakdee to start thinking about ways she could supplement income for her family in an increasingly expensive Phuket.

“I started frequenting many restaurants that served European salad – not Thai,” she says.

It was at an Italian restaurant, Capannina at Kata beach, where she got her first taste of the fiery, flavorful and astringent tasting rocket lettuce, Eruca sativa.

“I found out that they [restaurants] were paying as much as 900 baht per kilogram for this. Then I thought to myself, at such a price I wouldn’t have to grow too much to be able to supplement our earnings year round.”

A budding interest soon expanded to other types of lettuces, vegetables and herbs, and the curiosity soon became a passion.

To research the market, she went to various restaurants around the island, and particularly enjoyed visiting the Sizzler’s salad bar, known for its diverse array of fresh and seasonal offerings.

“I took a one-day hydroponics course for 500 baht at Rajabhat University, and continued to research the science and methodologies on the internet.”

Originally from Chiang Rai in the North of Thailand, Pakdee laughingly admits that growing up, she didn’t have any background or real experience in agriculture.

However, as a professional dive operator, she already had an underlying passion for the life sciences, particularly biological cycles and processes. Such a passion – or “heart” as she calls it – is essential for anybody looking to try their hand at something new, and hydroponics is not exception.

“Some people will try it out, perhaps as a hobby or even a small business venture. But if they don’t have the heart and ample time to devote to it, they will not succeed,” she says.

By the end of the initial year, highlighted by much trial and error, Pakdee was filling a small yet steady demand.

“We currently grow about a dozen types of lettuce and herbs, whereas others [in Phuket] only grow three to four types.”

The types were chosen not only based on market demand, but also practicality. Over the last four years, she has attempted to grow more than 20 types of herbs, ferns and vegetables, but Phuket’s hot and tropical environment has proved inconducivve for growing many things. Pakdee has tried rosemary, sage, oregano and Italian parsley.

“These would be a lot easier to grow in Chiang Mai, for example, but the weather in Phuket is just not ideal,” she says.

The farm has the capacity to grow and supply one tonne – 1,000 kilograms-of fresh lettuces and herbs per month, and at this point, she’s content.

“Any more than this, and it would no longer be a hobby, but become full-time work.”

Rocket continues to be the most popular of her offerings, and the two varieties she grows – Garden and Wild – combined make up about 40% of her supply. Other than this, she grows both red and green varieties of Coral and Oak lettuces, as well as Frillice Iceberg, Batavia, Butterhead, Thai Mustard, Romaine Cos, Mizuna and both Thai and Italian Basil.

Half of her produce goes to local households, friends and their restaurants, and whatever is left – about half of the produce – is sold to two wholesale brokers, who supply directly to hotels and restaurants. She also supplies both the Central and Patong branches of Sizzler.

The fundamental principles of supply and demand affect all business, whether a small dive company or vegetable farm,” she says, before going on to highlight a common problem many business operators face in Phuket.

“In order to gain more market share, new players often end up producing too much. As supply exceeds demand, then everyone tries to undercut the competition, which makes prices plummet, and causes problems for everyone.

Ms Pakdee goes on to highlight the advantages of sourcing locally produced, high-quality produce.For the last four years, Ms Pakdee has not increased or decreased prices, regardless of inflation and other factors that often affect suppliers depending on produce from other regions.

“Whether there are floods in Bangkok, or a drought elsewhere, my price doesn’t change… The important thing to keep in mind is sufficiency – make enough but not too much.”

She says that the reason she has been able to keep her prices, and thus demand, stable, is because she views her operation as a past-time, rather than a trade, adding that such a model can be applied to any hobby, venture or operation.

Despite the constant threat of copy-cat entrepreneurship, Ms Pakdee readily shares her knowledge with anyone wishing to learn about hydroponics, whether just to feed their families or to make supplemental income in their respective locale.

“When you start a business, it’s important to have your own customer base and to maintain strong relations. And you really have to ensure that your offering is better than others, not just copying others.”

Ms Pakdee has taught and continues to teach her hobby to a number of villagers, vendors and curious students, as well as hotel staff.

“They usually come to work and study on the farm on weekends and whenever they have holidays. I don’t charge or pay them, but am happy to give them knowledge and even some vegetables to take home,” she says.

For more information and inquiries, go to: phukethydroponics.com.

Keep checking our online Phuket Business pages, join our Facebook fan page or follow us on Twitter @PhuketGazette for the latest local and national business updates.

— Steven Layne

 

Want more Thailand news from the Thaiger family?

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS for instant updates on your mobile
📝️ Join the conversation on Thaiger Talk - discuss news & life in our Thailand forums
📧 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🔔 Subscribe to or Join our YouTube channel for daily video updates

image

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Coronavirus (Covid-19)34 mins ago

Shipment of 2 million Sinovac vaccines arrive from China

Coronavirus (Covid-19)2 hours ago

Autopsy requested for young policeman with vaccine

Thailand3 hours ago

Despite corruption allegations, street lamp project continues in Samut Prakan

Phuket Sandbox July 1st

days
hours
minutes
seconds

Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in July - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages in June!

Thailand4 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Sandbox is GO, vaccine cocktails, US warning on Thai travel | June 23

Best of4 hours ago

Top 5 Provinces to visit near Bangkok

Tourism4 hours ago

CCSA gives details on “Phuket Sandbox” and “Samui Plus” travel schemes

Best of4 hours ago

Top 5 Cities to visit in Thailand

Coronavirus (Covid-19)4 hours ago

Gap between AstraZeneca vaccines cut from 16 to 12 to 8 weeks

Best of4 hours ago

Top 5 Steakhouses in Bangkok

Best of5 hours ago

Top 5 Pubs in Bangkok

Coronavirus (Covid-19)6 hours ago

Wednesday Covid Update: Daily death count hits record high; provincial totals

Coronavirus (Covid-19)7 hours ago

US is “unable” to provide Covid-19 vaccines to Americans who live overseas

Tourism7 hours ago

Sandbox could be revised, cancelled if Covid-19 outbreaks occur

Tourism9 hours ago

US Warns its citizens against traveling to Thailand

Coronavirus (Covid-19)9 hours ago

Embassy of France in Thailand starts vaccine campaign for French nationals ages 55+

Thailand4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism4 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism4 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism4 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8

Trending