TEMBURONG – The government wants more youths to start vertical farming in order to supply domestic market demand and replace Brunei’s ageing farmers.

To identify interested participants, the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood (DAA) has begun inviting registered jobseekers nationwide to attend agriculture courses.

According to the department’s Head of International Affairs and Public Relations, Hirman Hj Abu, the course, dubbed “Kursus Pendedahan Teknologi Mudah dan Murah”, educates youth on inexpensive methods to start an agricultural business. 

The programme encourages young people to build vertical gardens that require minimal space, using cheap materials such as used plastic bottles and wooden planks. It also solves the problem of needing land to start a farm.

“The objective of this programme is to give them a head start in the world of agriculture and we will help them overcome common problems faced by other agriculture startups like pests,” he said.

A ‘sawi’ sapling growing out of a plastic bottle in a vertical garden. Photo: Courtesy of Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism

The programme is the first of its kind in Brunei, specifically targeting youths, as the nation’s farmers age into retirement. 

“We’ve held similar courses previously but the demographic was specifically targeting low income individuals such as single mothers, to help them generate income,” he told The Scoop. 

The first course, conducted in all four districts, is an introductory course, to expose young people to the opportunities in starting an agricultural business.

This is where the DAA will be able to identify those who are serious about becoming farmers.

“Upon the completion of the first course, participants who are interested in pursuing this venture will be encouraged to register for a second and more intensive course. We will give them more in-depth information on the technicalities and economics of running their vertical farms.” 

This includes marketing their produce and branding their business — an aspect that he believes is often overlooked by local farmers. 

When both courses are completed, participants will proceed to the final stage of starting and running their own vertical gardens. During this stage, they will be monitored by theDAA and provided guidance if needed.

However, this does not mean that the startups expected to stay small. The department hopes that the course will allow youth “agripreneurs” to mature their businesses more quickly then their predecessors. 

“After a few years in the industry, these startups will be able to generate enough income and generate capital to start commercialising their products.” 

Hirman said startups that show the most potential, and who can prove consistent output, will be helped by the DAA to bring their products to a wider market. 

“Our hope is that these youths who enter the industry will be more dynamic, as youths of this day and age are exposed to different technologies and methods that can innovate the industry. That is what we want,” he added. 

The first course has already been conducted in Temburong, and will be expanded to the other districts in the coming months.