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10 Nov 2021

APU Students Successfully Become Founding Entrepreneurs of an Urban e-Farm

Asia Pacific University (APU) has once again proved excellency in producing innovative students with students Sean Lee Juan Shen and Eddie Soong Chuk Ming becoming successful entrepreneurs of an urban e-farm at only 19 years old.

Motivated to grow farm produce with zero chemicals due to Lee’s dad’s health condition that requires a clean diet, the creative duo developed aquaponics on a DIY basis as a hobby. Despite pursuing different undergraduate programmes, both Lee and Soong had perfectly leveraged the common resources provided by APU in making their dreams come true.

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Lee who is a student of the BA (Hons) in Business Management specialising in E-Business and Soong, a student of the BSc (Hons) in Information Technology specialising in Cloud Computing, participated in APU’s Sandbox Incubation Centre (ASBX) as part of their internship. The programme is a start-up incubator specially designed for undergraduates of different study programmes and aims to impart them with true entrepreneurial skills that cover inspiration, self-discovery and an innovative mindset.

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From the project, the duo produced approximately 500kg of farm produce and 800kg of fish monthly, with the farm produce being sold at RM30 per kilogram and fish at RM25 per kilogram.

APU’s Chief Innovation Officer Prof Ir Ts Vinesh Thiruchelvam and Pn. Haslina Hashim, Lecturer of Faculty of Business & Management, both of whom are also ASBX mentors, recently paid a visit to the students’ E-Farm located in Cheras, Selangor and were impressed by the yield and their students’ achievement.

“They have taken their idea on to multiple solutions to address common concerns regarding organic food or fish production, selling the agriculture products through an online customer base while maintaining a healthy supply chain network and the business relationship between supplier, grower, seller and clients,” Prof Vinesh said.

He also applauded the fact that the urban farm project is aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals especially on SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 3 (ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages) and SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production).

Entrepreneurship as an alternative to employment

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APU’s ASBX programme aims to enable students to gain entrepreneurship experience developing their start-up as an alternative to job employment. By participating in this programme, undergraduates will be able to acquire the relevant content, mentors’ support and exposure at the practical level, ultimately developing skills that are required for establishing and running a company.

More importantly, ASBX allows venture building as part of comprehensive support to help startups go into the market. From here, students will draw inspiration from various research on entrepreneurship which is then reflected in their design ideas, prototype and project pitching. In fact, support and mentoring by APU academicians or industry experts will be customised for each startup, so students will get direct guidance from experts in the field.

Lee highlighted that the startup experience allowed them to analyse their idea and strategise it into the market using effectuation, design thinking and venture building concepts. Apart from that, they had acquired a range of technical and non-technical knowledge which spurred them further into the start-up environment. Not to mention, having regular meetings with Pn Haslina has helped them develop effective personal and communication skills.

Lee and Soong unanimously agreed that the commercial implementation is vital in the value proposition, investment pitch and to ensure that the business model is intact. They admitted that the fundamentals addressed during the ASBX stage had led them to their current success.

Soong credited the flexibility of the ASBX programme for allowing them both to discuss their project and impart their different skill sets despite coming from different study backgrounds. Without any overlap, Lee manages the front-end business engagement focusing on organic farming physical requirements, while Soong himself leads the technical backend development utilising his computational skills obtained from his study programme.

On business modelling and strategy, Lee deploys what he learned through his programme such as e-business, delivering customer value, digital marketing and Integrated Business Processes with SAP ERP System (IBPSES) whereas tech savvy Soong uses his computer skills. With exposure to JAVA programming, web development and advanced database management, Soong oversees the platform that manages the online orders or transactions.

On their success of venturing into the business world while still studying on campus, Lee and Soong also attributed this to their friendship and characteristics — having a similar vision and sharing a common understanding for the betterment of the general society — which made up the backbone of their business partnership.

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