By Zac B. Sarian
MELONS GROWN INSIDE A GREENHOUSE – Photo shows the beautiful melon fruits inside the greenhouse of Panu Taweepon in Surat Thani province some 500 kilometers south of Bangkok. Panu’s little farm is just two rai (one rai is 40m x 40m) but he can make an income equivalent to P161,000 per 60-sq.m. greenhouse in a growing cycle of about three months. He can grow three crops in one greenhouse per year.
SHOWCASE AT THE TRADE SHOW – Photo shows Panu Taweepopn (right) and Zac B. Sarian inside the greenhouse that Panu showcased at the Sima-Asean Agribusiness trade show. Panu operates his little melon farm of 3,200 square meters by himself with occasional help from his mother. His plants are drip-irrigated so labor in watering is reduced to the minimum.
GREENHOUSE AT THE TRADE SHOW – This is a small prototype of Panu Taweepon’s greenhouse which he showcased at the Sima-Asean Agribusiness trade show in Bangkok on June 6-8. In a 60-sq.m. greenhouse, Panu can harvest about 500 marketable fruits each weighing about two kilos. Three crops can be grown in one greenhouse in one year.
MELONS AT THE TRADE SHOW – Photo shows some of the melon fruits that Panu Taweepon brought to the trade show in Bangkok for visitors to see and buy. One kilo sells for 100 baht which is equivalent to about P161 in Philippine money. Panu’s melons are sold all over Thailand through the internet. Orders are shipped by express courier.
HARBEST BOSS AND PANU TAWEEPON – Toto Barcelona of Harbest Agribusiness poses with Panu Taweepon in front of his greenhouse exhibit at the Sima-Asean Agribusiness trade show. Harbest Agribusiness distributes different varieties of melon, honeydew melon and watermelon from Known-You Seed of Taiwan. Barcelona is fascinated at the agribusiness model that Taweepon showcased at the trade show. He said that Panu’s model is something Filipino agripreneurs can adopt.
YOUNG VISITOR AT PANU’S MELON FARM – A young girl poses among fruiting melons inside the greenhouse of Panu Taweepon in Surat Thani province in southern Thailand. The small farm has become famous and is visited by a lot of farming enthusiasts. Visitors, however, are asked to make their reservation for a visit one month in advance to avoid big crowds which could disrupt farming operations. Panu operates his farm by himself with occasional help from his mother, especially when he is invited to talk outside of his province.
Panu Taweepon, 37, is a happy bachelor who grows melons in his small farm in Surat Thani province some 500 kilometers south of Bangkok. His NF Farm (New Farmer Farm) is just 3,200 square meters but his income from this small parcel could be much more than a rice farmer cultivating several hectares can make.
In his small farm, he has several greenhouses each measuring just about 60 square meters. Do you know how much he makes from each greenhouse every growing cycle of about three months? From one greenhouse he harvests 500 marketable fruits, each weighing at least two kilos. That means he can harvest one ton from that little space. At 100 baht per kilo, that’s worth 100,000 baht or about P161,000 in Philippine money. In one year, he can grow three crops so that’s a gross of nearly half million Philippine pesos just from one greenhouse.
We met Panu at the Sima-Asean Agribusiness Exhibition in Bangkok held on June 6-8, 2018 at the Impact Exhibition Center. He showcased a prototype of his greenhouse where he grows his melons.
What’s interesting is that he operates his NF Farm by himself with the occasional help of his mother when he is away. That’s not difficult for his mother to look after the farm because the plants under greenhouse are drip irrigated so watering and fertilization are done by simply opening a valve.
At the trade show, Panu’s video of his melons was played non-stop which attracted many visitors. It was the same video that he posted on his Facebook account which has been attracting buyers of his high-quality melon fruits nationwide. Panu said that he sells his harvest to buyers who have seen his video on Facebook.
Panu said that he sells his fruits throughout the whole of Thailand. He sends them by express courier. “If you order and I ship today, you will receive your fruits the next day,” he said. There’s no minimum order. If the customer orders just one, that’s fine. The buyer will only have to pay the courier’s fee.
One typical order is five fruits in a box weighing about 12 kilos (some fruits weigh more than two kilos). The total cost, including shipping, is 1,450 baht or P2,334.50 in Philippine money.
Really, social media has revolutionized the marketing of farm produce. Panu Taweepon lives in a place that is far away from Bangkok, yet he is able to sell his harvest with the help of his Facebook account which is free.
We gathered that Panu’s little farm has become famous because of his beautiful melons. Visitors are welcome but if you want to visit, you will have to reserve one month in advance. Too many visitors at one time could disrupt his work in his little farm.
There are important lessons that can be learned here for local agripneneurs. It means that even if you have a very small farm, you can maximize income if you can grow the right product or products for the right target market. The important thing is that you have a thorough knowledge of how to grow and market the product you have chosen to specialize in.
The oft-repeated saying that “Small Is Beautiful” is once again demonstrated by Panu Taweepon. A small farm is easier to manage, especially if you have modern facilities like drip irrigation, greenhouses for year-round production, techniques of balanced fertilization either with organic or non-organic fertilizers.
There are many other interesting stories that we gathered from the SIMA-Asean Agribusiness Trade Show. Keep posted for our succeeding reports.