Archisen

This interview details Archisen, an indoor farming company based in Singapore. The interview is with Vincent Wei, Co-Founder of Archisen.

Source: Archisen

What is the origin story of Archisen?

I started my entrepreneurial journey with my co-founder Sven back in 2011. I had already graduated for a few years with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the National University of Singapore and he graduated with a degree in biological sciences from Nanyang Technological University. We incorporated a company called BioMachines, where we went about installing innovative IOT (Internet-of-things) systems in remote places such as teak plantations, cocoa plantations and forests in Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand. We got to understand problems faced in urban ecology, agriculture and forestry, and got to work with agronomists and horticulturists from various scientific fields. We closed the company in 2015.

Infected with the entrepreneurial bug, Sven and I started Archisen in 2016, with the objective of developing innovative ways to grow food for Singapore using controlled environment agriculture. Singapore imports about 90% of its produce from overseas, so we believed that there was a huge opportunity for enabling food resilience in a country where land and labour is expensive. We felt that if we could make it work in Singapore, there would be many cities that we can export our ubran farming technologies.

Source: Archisen

The word Archisen refers to a combination of two words, “Architecture for sensor networks”, as we believed controlled environment agriculture involved the use of an integrated system of sensors and automation systems. We started off looking at vegetables, as that was an agricultural product that could be grown locally, and a lot of research had already been done. We studied different growing systems, experimented with different sensing solutions and also built small-scale farms to test its commercial viability. There was a lot of technology out there, but being able to test and evaluate them, and integrate them into a workable solution was the key challenge.

Source: Archisen

What are some of the biggest challenges facing Archisen in the future?

Singapore does not have many farms, and unlike other countries, we don’t have an agricultural university. And hence, the lack of farmers with the right skillsets is a big challenge in scaling our operations because we take 3 to 6 months to train up these workers depending on their responsibilities. As a new industry, it is not really that easy to attract farmers and some of them do not come in with the right expectations. Some of them think that because it is “high-tech”, therefore work would be easy. On the contrary, there is a certain level of complexity in our operations to run it like a finely-tuned machine. We need to attract farmers who are willing to learn and have the right mindset to stay with us in our journey to supply Singapore with fresh, nutritious and flavourful produce.

Source: Archisen

What is unique about Archisen compared to competitors?

At Archisen, we have developed highly automated farming solutions that reduce the reliance on labour, and enable very consistent production of high yielding vegetables. Traditional agriculture in open fields are highly vulnerable to unfavorable climates, inconsistent manual labour and pests. We also use 90% less water than traditional farming, as our hydroponics systems enable recirculation of water and nutrients.

Just Produce is the brand of our vegetables. Imported vegetables from traditional agriculture need to travel long distances from Malaysia, China, Australia and even Italy, just to get on our shelves. Consumers should have the right to buy vegetables that are just freshly harvested, because they taste better and generate less carbon footprint during transport. To make this happen, it was important to create an identity for fresh produce that Singaporeans can feel connected to and whose values they resonate with. Eating Just Produce means you support the local farmers, drive sustainable farming practices and contribute to the country’s food security.

Source: Archisen

How do you measure the impact of your company so far? (Revenue, Employees, Customer Quantity, Production Volume) etc?

We have built a team of about 50 Archians in the company that consist of roles such as management, farm engineers, automation engineers, crop scientists, software engineers, project managers, data scientists, food technologists, agronomists, marketers, salespersons and urban farmers. Our organisational structure has also created career pathways for people interested to enter the industry at various positions, and have to opportunity for growth into highly specialised and managearial roles.

We are currently the leading supplier of locally produced mesclun mix in Singapore, and they are available in over 30 platforms, including FairPrice (the largest supermarket chain), Little Farms, Amazon and RedMart.

Source: Archisen

What have you learned that you wish you knew when you started the company?

There’s so much to learn everyday in the path of a startup. My biggest takeaway is the importance of building a great team and working with smart people; I wish I had more insights or lessons on this in the early stages of the company. There’s so much that you can learn from others if you are willing to take the time to listen and understand their perspectives. And it is so much easier to get things done if everyone is aligned and on the same team. I’m thankful to able to work with a great bunch of Archians everyday, and although we have disagreements, we know that we are all working hard in the interests of a common goal, and this helps build a level of trust and understanding.

Source: Archisen

How can people connect with you or learn more about Archisen?

Visit Archisen online at www.archisen.com, and buy our vegetables at www.justproduce.sg. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn

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