This SGHA winner is harnessing nature’s wriggly fertiliser to help farmers

Winning the SGHA has provided WormingUp with recognition and validation for the exceptional work it does for the community, says Wee. — ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE/The Star

SARAWAK-BASED social enterprise WormingUp hasn’t been resting on its laurels since winning the Star Golden Hearts Award (SGHA) in 2021.

Co-founder and entrepreneur Jeff Wee, whose company transforms food waste into fertiliser, has been working towards expanding the organisation’s operations, focusing on a new site in Asajaya, a 50-minute drive from the state capital, Kuching.

“Our factory in Stakan, Kuching, occupies approximately 0.25 acre of land. This serves as our basic farm, where our operations are based. We are in the process of establishing a two-acre site in Asajaya. This expansion reflects our commitment to grow our operations and to reach out to more farmers. It will provide us with an increased capacity to further our mission of promoting sustainable farming practices and supporting agricultural communities,” said Wee, 31, in an email interview recently.

WormingUp was founded in 2015 by Wee and his college mates from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas). Each month, they collect about eight tonnes of organic waste from wet markets and cafeterias around Kuching. The waste is then turned into compost, and donated to over 200 farmers in Padawan, a sub-district of Kuching.

By offering free fertilisers, WormingUp alleviates the financial burden of farmers and enables them to invest in other aspects of their farming operations.

“The motivation behind providing poor farmers with free fertilisers is to ensure community livelihood and promote sustainable agricultural practices. This assistance also encourages farmers to reduce their reliance on harmful chemical fertilisers, promoting the adoption of sustainable farming practices. The long-term benefits include improved soil health, increased crop yields and enhanced agricultural productivity, contributing to food security and economic stability,” Wee explained.

Rimas has seen positive impacts in her yield and farming practices, thanks to the support by WormingUp.  — JEFF WEERimas has seen positive impacts in her yield and farming practices, thanks to the support by WormingUp. — JEFF WEE

Organic improvement

Farmer Rimas Rinyuk is grateful for the help she received from WormingUp. The provision of high-quality fertiliser has led to improved crop yields, allowing her to grow new varieties of crops like corn, peanuts and yam.

“As a farmer for over 15 years, I have faced numerous challenges, including the high cost of fertilisers, seeds and pest control. Although farmers have subsidised fertiliser from the Department of Agriculture, the results aren’t always satisfactory.

“Many farmers, including myself, are financially challenged. We struggle to find affordable fertiliser suppliers. The assistance from WormingUp has helped reduce the cost of fertiliser for crops,” said the mother-of-two from Kampung Subang in Padawan.

She has witnessed significant benefits that have improved her farming practices, thanks to the support provided by the WormingUp.

“There has been a slight increase in profit since joining the WormingUp crop project. I can make about RM200 per week, depending on the continuous harvesting period. With the extra money, I can reinvest in my farm, and buy better tools and equipment to improve my productivity.”

WormingUp’s efforts are not limited to providing fertiliser to farmers. They have also established a sustainable food supply chain, connecting farmers directly to consumers, ensuring efficient and sustainable market access.

“We are exploring opportunities in food processing and surplus utilisation, to minimise waste and create value-added products such as banana chips and fruit preserves,” explained Wee.

WormingUp has a physical store in Padungan, Kuching where customers can buy organic fertiliser and other related products.

With a strong commitment to their mission, WormingUp is fostering positive change, ensuring a brighter and more sustainable future for farmers and the environment.

“Winning the SGHA has had a significant impact on our mission. The award has provided WormingUp with valuable recognition and validation for the work we do in our community. It has fuelled our commitment to making a greater positive impact in society.

“Walking away with such a prestigious award has served as a catalyst which has inspired the team to continue their efforts with renewed dedication and passion. It has also instilled a sense of pride and motivation in the organisation, fueling our commitment to improve the society,” Wee concluded.

This story is part of a series of articles featuring past Star Golden Hearts Award winners. Nominations are now open for this year’s award. Uplift your heroes by nominating them at before July 31, 2023.

Star Golden Hearts Award nominations are open now until July 31, 2023.Star Golden Hearts Award nominations are open now until July 31, 2023.

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