Going from media photographer to agropreneur

Ahmad Irham intends to open 1 or 2 more farms in Selangor before spreading his wings to his hometown in Machang, Kelantan

by ROSMALIS ANUAR / BERNAMA

AHMAD Irham Mohd Noor, who used to be a photographer for a popular daily, found himself without a job after the media organisation he worked for downsized its workforce in March this year.

Instead of wallowing in self-pity, the 39-year-old father-of-two wasted no time in charting a new career path for himself as an agropreneur.

Starting with a 0.4ha plot in Dengkil, Selangor, which he has leased for five years and 2,000 polybags of red chilli seedlings, he embarked on his venture, cultivating his crop using the fertigation system.

(Fertigation is a technique of supplying dissolved fertiliser to crops through an irrigation system in order to maximise yields.)

“After my company made the announcement (downsizing exercise), I felt that it was the best time for me to get involved in agriculture as I have always had an interest in this field,” Ahmad Irham, who lives in Putrajaya, told Bernama.

Initially, he felt nervous about venturing into agriculture as he had neither the experience nor expertise in crop cultivation.

Admitting he was also concerned about the inherent risks and the prospect of being left with unsold produce, he said he also wondered if the income he earned would be sufficient to support his family.

“Furthermore, with the problems posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, there were so many things to look into, including marketing my produce,” he added.

He finally put aside his fears and went ahead with the venture using the compensation he received from the media company as his capital.

Courses

The writer plucking some chillies at the site

To learn more about the fertigation cultivation system, Ahmad Irham attended a series of courses organised by the Department of Agriculture and Kuala Langat Area Farmers Organisation (PPK).

“I learned how to mix the fertilisers in accordance with their pH value and how to sow seeds in a nursery. I also gained more knowledge on pest control and the equipment used for the fertigation system, such as pumps and pipes,” he said.

After completing six courses, Ahmad Irham gained enough confidence to start his agriculture project.

He said it is crucial for novice farmers to attend such courses, so that they have the know-how to cultivate high-yielding crops.

Start With Chillies

The ex-media photographer says cultivating chillies using the fertigation system usually produces a yield of 2kg per polybag per crop cycle

Ahmad Irham said he chose to cultivate chillies due to their high market demand and the fact that they are easier to maintain compared to other vegetables.

Grade A red chillies currently fetch a price of up to RM18 a kilogramme, while the Grade B variety can be sold for not less than RM6 a kg.

The demand for chillies has soared this rainy season, according to Ahmad Irham.

“It was so heartening when I went to deliver the first batch of chillies I harvested. Even before I parked my car, wholesalers rushed to open my bonnet to take my stocks,” he said, smiling.

On his initial capital outlay, Ahmad Irham said he spent about RM45,000 on acquiring the necessary pumps and pipes for the fertigation system, as well as to build a store, nursery house and toilet. The capital was also utilised for paying utility bills and wages to his workers.

In July, he started to clear and prepare his land for cultivation, and fix the fertigation system. The following month, he embarked on sowing the chilli seeds, and three months later in November, the proud farmer reaped his first harvest amounting to nearly two tonnes which he marketed, with the help of the Kuala Langat PPK, to local wholesalers and restaurants.

“I was satisfied with my work as I was able to follow the cultivation schedule shown to me during a course I attended,” he said, adding that he would have two crop cycles a year.

Future Plans

Ahmad Irham said cultivating chillies using the fertigation system usually produces a yield of 2kg per polybag per crop cycle.

“But with proper maintenance and without any pest or insect infestation, yields of between 2kg and 6kg can be obtained for each polybag,” he added.

On his future plans, Ahmad Irham said he intends to open one or two more farms in Selangor before spreading his wings to his hometown in Machang, Kelantan.

“Having two or three farms will give me a continuous income stream. The only thing is, I have to think of ways to find workers,” he said, adding that his wife Azlimi [email protected] Abdullah, 39, and two children Aiman Irfan, 14, and Adam Irsyad, 10, help him out on his farm on weekends and school holidays. — Bernama