Samui Wining & Dining
Why Here?

It was Khun Phatphong Jeartrawanich’s love of Samui that
eventually resulted in him creating a hydroponics farm – Hydroboyd


18A tiny, rocky outcrop in the Gulf of Thailand is what you’re walking on. And a tour around the island and a quick inspection of the ground will tell you that prime farmland isn’t what makes Samui special. Only a few hardy tropical fruits and vegetables are able to grow here. And much of the fresh produce you eat in the restaurants is brought in from the more temperate climes of northern Thailand.


However, ploughing the soil and planting seeds isn’t the only way to grow plants. And one enterprising man has done his homework and is making a success of hydroponically grown lettuces and herbs. Khun Phatphong Jeartrawanich has had a colourful career and we caught up with him ‘down-on-the-farm’ in Maenam to find out more about his latest venture and plans for the future.


JP: Tell us a little about yourself please.

PJ: I was born and brought up in Bangkok – very much a city boy. However, I had a friend who was working on Samui so, about 15 years ago, I came to the island on holiday. It appealed to me and was very different from the capital, as you can imagine. I was a young man and free and so I returned later to find work and see what it was like to live on an island and I’ve been here ever since.


JP: What did you do before opening the farm?

PJ: Oh, lots of things. I worked in some hotel restaurants to start with. Had a stint at the Samui Shooting Range, managed a nightclub in Chaweng for six years and worked in real-estate and property development for a while. In the last few years, that market, and the economy in general, has taken some knocks and so I started to plan the hydroponic farm.


JP: What inspired you to try this out?

PJ: I’ve got to know plenty of chefs and restaurateurs on Samui and the produce I grow is something they need on a daily basis. To have a ready supply on their doorstep is perfect for them and I deliver directly to their restaurants. It had been at the back of my mind for some time and I’d chatted it through with them many times; it wasn’t a project I just jumped into.


JP: Was it a subject you knew much about?

PJ: No, very little at first. But I took my time, did a lot of intensive research, and soul-searching, and finally started work on it last summer. I planted the first seeds in September of 2010 and slowly increased the number of seed-beds. Soon I’ll have 32 beds all at different stages of growth and with a variety of lettuces and herbs.


JP: Tell us what hydroponics is please.

PJ: It’s a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions rather than soil. In this case, a water solution that I add specific amounts of other natural ingredients to; I don’t use chemicals or pesticides. The word hydroponics comes from the Greek words ‘hydro’ meaning water and ‘ponos’ meaning labour. It’s not a new method of agriculture by any means and the 17th century English writers Francis Bacon and John Woodward both wrote about a similar method of non-soil cultivation. In the 1930s, Wake Island, a rocky atoll in the Pacific, was a refueling and food supply stop for Pan American Airlines and hydroponics were used there as the island had no soil. And in more recent times NASA has carried extensive research on the subject for future space flights and potential planetary exploration.


JP: How do you keep insects from destroying the plants?

PJ: I never want to use pesticides so I went back to basics and found out how farmers in Thailand addressed the problem before the advent of chemical solutions. Around the seed beds I grow a particular variety of lemon-grass; it’s different from the type used for dishes like tom yam goong. The aroma keeps mosquitoes away, quite a few of the spas on the island use this for that reason and because it smells nice, it has a rather calming effect on mosquitoes and humans. To protect the plants from worms and butterflies I use a spray solution that contains garlic and a few other natural ingredients.


JP: How did the name of the business come about?

PJ: Well like all Thai people I have a nickname that everyone knows me by and mine is Boyd. You can work out the rest for yourself!


JP: What are your plans for the next 12 months or so?

PJ: I’m just finishing off the last beds and I should be able to produce around 2,500 kilograms of different plants per month, that’s tens of thousands of heads of lettuce plus some varieties of herbs. We already have regular orders from lots of restaurants and resorts with new enquiries almost every day. I also want to experiment with fruits like tomatoes and melons which can’t be grown in the limited soil on Samui. I’m also in discussions with some of the top chefs here who are keen to hold cooking classes at the farm and use the fresh produce in the dishes that their guests make. Another idea I’m pushing forward is a mobile catering van that will allow us to go to local markets and ‘walking streets’ both to advertise what we do and to sell some sandwiches and snacks using our produce. And, ideally, at some point, I’d like to open a small restaurant at the farm, again using our produce and making simple food that people can enjoy in beautiful surroundings.


JP: Finally, how can people get in touch and can anyone visit the farm?

PJ: Absolutely, I’m happy to show people around and explain what we do. It’s best to give me a call first so that I can make sure I’m available. If you’re driving from the Chaweng/Bophut direction, come into Maenam and at the traffic lights turn left into Soi 4. Drive up the road a few hundred metres and just before the entrance to the temple take a left turn. Follow the road around and then straight on, after 300 metres the road forks, stay to the left and drive another 200 metres and there’s a turning onto a dirt track just before a house with an eight-foot high white painted wall around it. The farm’s right there.


Johnny Paterson


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