“Give a man a fish and he will eat it for a day, but teach a man to fish and eat it all his life” is a motto of life lived by the family of agroprenors behind the plantation and the initiative of Sulaiman CocoJack.
CocoJack is a social enterprise that helps young B40s learn and venture into agriculture with an focus on agritech, which is the way to return the community to the community through the plantation that has fed them well .
As a serial entrepreneur, Syed Sulaiman was a coffee shop owner and chili paste maker before CocoJack. In 2006, his entrepreneurial intuition told him that agriculture would be the next big thing in the future, so he immediately started working on it and founded Sulaiman Plantation, a dwarf coconut mini-farm (better known as coconut pendant locally).
Jackfruit and his son entered the picture
When his coconut business took off, Syed Sulaiman then introduced jack fruits into this plantation. Coconuts and jackfruits are the main crops of the plantation, mainly because they are the easiest to handle and at the same time their demand is high in Kedah and Pulau Pinang, the former being where they are.
When green fruit became a profitable business, Syed Sulaiman entrusted the planting to his son, Syed Salleh, who later came up with the name and initiative, CocoJack (a marriage of the names of his main crops). At present, they have 2 farms in Kedah totaling up to 13 acres housing their main crops as well as chili and ginger.
When Syed Salleh (who we will now refer to as Syed) took over the plantation, he had no idea what he was doing, as he had a marketing degree and at most only helped his parents maintain the farm.
However, he sought government programs that would provide agricultural training to young people, many of which are organized by SME Corp, such as The Entrepreneur TV3, which won in 2016.
Subsequently, Syed also looked for a mentor who would do well in the farming industry and worked with his mentor’s company for 3 years as an agricultural assistant, and then moved up to an assistant manager position and a shared partner. In 2019, he returned to his father’s plantation and took over the business completely.
“I went through a time when no one would help me during my hardships to start my farming project, which is the main reason I started this initiative,” Syed shared with Vulcan Post.
The CocoJack Heroes program
Now, the social enterprise part of their plantation is called CocoJack, for which interested young B40s can show up to the program and go through a bootcamp. Its bootcamp includes courses on hydroponics, fertigation, conventional agriculture, agribusiness, pitching sessions, etc.
25 people are selected for each session and only 5 participants will be selected to carry out their training of agroprenors from 3 to 6 months. On the plus side, the remaining 20 participants who were not selected can also get help to get farming solutions and get advice on their own farming projects.
The five participants selected as CocoJack Heroes will be sent to various courses and seminars related to agriculture and business development, and will also be exposed to farming life with their farms.
Once they complete their training, they will be offered to join CocoJack officially to get a contract job.
During this training period, these five participants can expect to receive an income of 800 to 1,200 RM per month. When they officially work as agro-tenants on their own agricultural projects, they can expect to earn between RMB 1,800 and 2,500 a month.
As this is a social enterprise, the beneficiaries that form part of its in-kind contribution program will have to contribute 10-15% of its profits to CocoJack, depending on the scale of the projects that have been donat.
Syed also explained that they usually advise their CocoJack heroes to have fixed income from their projects, even though their projects generate more profits during a particular season.
“In our CocoJack module, we not only teach our beneficiaries how to plant a tree, but we also teach them about supply chains. Our module is designed to provide guidance from production to direct selling as well as setting up a farm. CocoJack Heroes can also choose which process they want to focus on first instead of wasting time testing each stage.
“Say that if a CocoJack hero wants to focus on setting up a farm and selling contributions, he can choose to set up his own online store to sell it directly to end users and customers. Our main agenda here is to make sure that our beneficiaries are able to generate income not only through planting, ”Syed shared.
The Agritechs behind their work
In addition to hydroponics and fertigation, CocoJack also uses these other agritechs to train its beneficiaries:
- Home Captainsthe accounting application to record agricultural expenditures;
- A CocoJack planting schedule to help record agricultural activities by labeling, fertilizing, and spraying pesticides, which are still under development;
- And a smart labeling system to help farmers determine how much fruit a tree produces.
Syed credits the intensive use of agritech in his initiative to help make agriculture look more “sexy” to young people who have always seen this career with traditional agriculture represented in the head, making them less interested to become agroprenors.
“I hope our CocoJack heroes can stand up to generate income for their family. I also hope that CocoJack heroes will be able to provide more job opportunities to the locals and be the changing agents that will reform our agricultural industry.” , shared Syed with Vulcan Post.
“I believe our young people are able to revolutionize our agricultural industry and help our country with food security and at the same time reduce unemployment among Malaysian youth.”
Syed Salleh, founder of CocoJack
- You can learn more about CocoJack here.
- You can read more articles we have written about agritech here.
Featured Image Credit: Syed Salleh, founder of CocoJack