Our Founder Linda is in northern Thailand this week, connecting with more smallholder cocoa farmers. She shared an afternoon at FarmaONE Garden with Mr. Keow on his cacao and fig farm in Chiang Mai Province. He’s been farming all his life, starting on his father’s farm before he was ten.
For most of his life, Mr. Keow farmed Lamyai, known as Longan in English. This sweet, juicy fruit, about the size of a ping pong ball, comes in bunches. But in 2019, his son Theerapong Kammoon (Nung) convinced him to shift to cacao. They planted 1500 cacao trees on his 11 rai (1.76 hectares) plot of land and fig trees as well.
Mr. Keow says cacao is easy to maintain, noting that each tree produces an average of 100 kg annually. He says the ICS95 pods outperform the Chumphon 1 strain and produce bigger beans. He doesn’t know why, suspecting it is tied to the latitude which is north of the typical cacao-producing regions.
As yields increase, post-harvest processing is critical. Nung designed and built wooden boxes for his father to streamline and improve the fermentation process. They are proving effective. Mr. Keow walked Linda through the fermentation process, sharing his technique.
When the beans are separated from the husk, FarmaONE uses a machine to crush the husk making a natural fertilizer. Rich in potassium, it helps the cacao and fig trees maintain strong yields.
Summer 2023 was hot and dry. Some trees lost their leaves, requiring more water. They installed a sprinkler system, and the trees survived, producing the average yield again.
FarmaONE is aligned with ECOSHIFT’s philosophy of sustainable farming. But diseases attack cacao trees, perhaps the most damaging being black pod disease. If left untreated, it can cause up to 80% reduction in yield, with a devastating impact on a smallholder farmer’s income. To combat this, Mr. Keow applies minimal treatment to control ants and prevent the spread of black pod disease only once a year.
So, what happens to the cacao?
His research indicated that cacao grew well in the region. And his father’s farm is proof. He focused on improving the quality to make better products. So he coached his Dad into planting the trees and techniques to get better quality cacao and improve the market.
He collaborates with the ISTC Chulalongkorn University in the Innovation Center for Research and Development of Sustainable Thai Cacao and Taiwanese Pintong National University of Science and Technology.
Leveraging his Taiwanese connections, Nung will soon be exporting his products there, realizing higher margins and expanding the market for Thai chocolate.
It’s great to meet cacao farmers and producers like Mr. Keow and Nung, who share the same values.
We look forward to collaborating with FarmaONE and RESPECT Corner, strengthening our network.
ECOSHIFT can help you achieve higher quality cacao, more robust yields, better pricing, and long-term contracts.
Our supply chain management tech platform captures and verifies each production stage so you meet EU regulations.
Let’s grow better farms and happier families sustainably.
ECOSHIFT – re-think sustainability
Location: Saraphi District, Chiang Mai 50140
Contact: Khun Keow
Location: Kad Farang Village, Chiang Mai-Hod Rd, Ban Waen, Hand Dong, Chiang Mai 50230
by Tim Morch