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Growing a passion for plants

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Ms Jaslin Koh, 52, had no experience with agriculture before she joined Sustenir in 2015. With encouragement from her bosses, she is now head of the nursery and enjoys her work.

BEFORE Jaslin Koh joined Sustenir in 2015, she had no knowledge of agriculture. But after working with the firm's crops and learning more about vertical farming, she developed a passion for plants.

"At the time I needed a full-time job, and I saw online that Sustenir was hiring a process operator. I didn't even know exactly what that meant," says Ms Koh, 52, who only found out Sustenir was an agriculture company after she was hired.

She had held administrative jobs before becoming a homemaker upon the birth of her first child in 1993. Fifteen years later, she re-entered the labour market as a part-time seller in a school uniform supply company, where she worked for seven years.

"That's why I was a bit worried on my first day (at Sustenir). It's an entirely different environment from my previous office jobs."

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Fortunately, adapting to the change proved to be less challenging than she had expected.

At the commercial farm in Admiralty, she received on-the-job training from her nursery manager. As a team, they also worked together to refine the growing process.

"When I first joined, we hadn't started anything yet, so we had to do some tests. I found it quite fun, and since then developed an interest for planting," she says.

Through many experiments, she discovered the best water pH level for seeding different plant species to obtain the highest rate of germination.

Along with her co-workers, she also observed the plants and worked out the varying doses of nutrients to optimise each species' growth.

And when Sustenir was experimenting with edible flowers, she was tasked with overseeing the new growth.

Apart from the hands-on work, she also attributes her enjoyment of her job to Sustenir's unconventional farming methods.

"I was so surprised to see that with the help of technology, we can grow plants indoors in such a clean place. It was something that attracted me a lot."

Most of all, she credits her desire to stay in the company to Mr Swan's leadership style.

"Ben never pressured me, he gave me a lot of space and freedom to experiment and learn. So whenever I come across a challenge, I just keep trying and trying."

Her perseverance did not go unnoticed. She is now head of the nursery and manages two assistants.

Her knowledge has blossomed in areas ranging from controlled environment agriculture - the catch-all term for the high-tech style of farming that Sustenir practises - to caring for non-native plants.

"I am happy with my job and thankful for the opportunity to learn so much."

Brought to you by The Future Economy Council