Sunway XFarms Malaysia

This interview details Sunway XFarms, an indoor farming company based in Malaysia. The interview is with Eleanor Choong, COO of Sunway XFarms.

Source: Sunway XFarms

What is the origin story of Sunway XFarms?

Sunway XFarms started in 2019 to address food security challenges faced in Malaysia as our country relies heavily on imports for essential food products. Trade disruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic have also further exacerbated the food crisis, widening the gap between consumption and supply.

As a new venture under the Sunway Group, one of the largest property developers in Malaysia, we were actively looking for solutions where we could turn underutilized urban spaces into thriving urban farms to nourish local communities with fresh and sustainable food. Our first farm was built by transforming an old hotel building in Sunway City Kuala Lumpur into a 30,000 sqft urban farm innovation hub to research various farming technologies and innovations.

Source: Sunway XFarms

 

What are some of the biggest challenges facing Sunway XFarms in the future? 

Malaysia is considered a relatively unhealthy country as the number of heart disease and obesity cases is high. Recent statistics show that 3.6 million (10% population) Malaysians live with diabetes – the highest number in Asia. It is a long-term battle to educate local communities to incorporate more greens in their diet and adopt healthy eating lifestyles. Hence it is a dilemma for us as we continue to grow more of what the market needs vs what they want or crave.

Due to increasing demand, supply chain issues, and the recent conflict, energy prices have soared across the globe. As indoor farms rely solely on grow lights for sustainable plant growth, it is important that we continuously find new innovative methods to reduce energy usage while maintaining or improving our plant yields and quality.

Source: Sunway XFarms

 

What is unique about Sunway XFarms compared to competitors?

Our unique demand-driven business model allows us to ensure that every crop we grow has a buyer secured. This means that we are able to keep wastage at a minimum without unnecessary surplus significantly. We also adopt a same-day harvest approach with our customers as our produce are harvested and handed over to the food services within the same day to ensure peak freshness and flavour. By managing our entire supply chain, we can provide our consumers with very competitive pricing and guarantee consistent supply.

Source: Sunway XFarms

 

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

We have managed to 3x our YoY financial goals since we started our business back in 2019. With the launch of our latest urban farm – the largest indoor vertical farm in Kuala Lumpur City Center spanning close to 40,000 sqft, we are able to produce more than 30 varieties, totaling 120 tonnes of produce annually. We foster young apprentices through our Agrifood Apprentice Programme, upskilling them with uncommonly taught hard skills while battling the stigma that farming as a career is a step back in life. We also pledge 5-10% of our produce to the underprivileged, and through various campaigns, we rally both corporates and the general public to sponsor these fresh, sustainable foods for the needy. 

Source: Sunway XFarms

 

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

Anticipate more time and resources than initially planned - Unlike SaaS or e-commerce platforms, agriculture is an industry that requires an immense amount of patience and perseverance. While it's possible to solve a software bug within a day or two (if you are lucky), farmers have to wait weeks, months, or years to trial and perfect a plant-growing recipe. Farms can also experience a variety of unpredictable events such as climate change, power failure, logistics disruptions, shortage of raw materials, pests and diseases, and not to mention human error which can be difficult to trace or reverse. Hence, solving an operation problem, launching a new crop, or pivoting to a new business model in agriculture does require significantly more time and resources than planned.

Source: Sunway XFarms

 

How can people connect with you or learn more about Sunway XFarms?

To learn more about our company, people can visit our website at www.sunwayxfarms.com. We are also on Facebook and Instagram.

Source: Sunway XFarms

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