Modern agriculture has found its new champion - the humble sprout. In the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh, a ground-breaking innovation in urban farming is unfurling - sprouting vegetables.
The resultant power-packed greens are swiftly replacing their conventional equivalents, capturing attention with their boosted nutrient profiles and burgeoning presence across city supermarkets.
The seeds of this verdant revolution have been sown by ‘City of Sprouts,’ a flourishing venture catering to the city’s demand for these nutrient-dense microgreens.
With a footprint across 200 stores, including premier supermarkets, the enterprise is sprouting a novel and nutritive narrative in Cambodia’s urban agriculture scene.
The brainchild of On Seiha, ‘City of Sprouts’ emerges from the simple act of sprouting plant seeds that flourish into a variety of vegetable sprouts within just five days.
These nutrition packed sprouts, grown within the urban sprawl, reflect the ‘city’ aspect of the enterprise’s name, their home in Boeung Chhouk village, Kilometre 6 commune, Russey Keo district.
“I established ‘City of Sprouts’ in 2014, initially on a small scale. This was a novel product – a nutrient-rich vegetable offering immense market potential. What drove me towards this initiative was a deep-seated passion for the work and the knowledge I gained while studying in Israel,” he disclosed.
Seiha, motivated by the sight of these vegetable sprouts gracing restaurant plates in neighbouring countries, noted an emerging market for his product. He gradually began to research, apply effective techniques, and discovered a progressively expanding market.
‘City of Sprouts’ boasts a diverse and vast range of over 10 imported vegetable varieties, encompassing white sprouting beets, purple and pink beets, mixed vegetable sprouts, along with exotic foreign offerings such as collard greens and European salads.
Seiha confirmed a broad market for his sprouts, distributed to supermarkets across Phnom Penh. The enterprise serves over 200 locations, including prominent names such as Lucky Shopping Mall, Macro Supermarket, Aeon Mall, and more.
In terms of production, Seiha stated: “Our plant nursery spans an area of about 250 square metres. We also work in collaboration with two other farms under contractual partnerships”.
“Our production capacity is flexible, aligning with customer needs. Orders can be placed a week in advance. On average, we sell over 500 boxes daily, with weekends witnessing a surge,” he added.
The cost of this supercharged produce varies from 4,500 to 5,800 riel for 100 grams. Seiha highlights that small quantities provide ample nutrition, given the sprouts’ threefold nutrient concentration relative to conventional vegetables. Yet, their consumer base remains niche, dominated by affluent patrons who prioritise quality over cost.
Reflecting on initial challenges, Seiha shared: “There was minimal support from those around us. We faced criticism for growing small, expensive plants. But we remained patient, determined, unfazed by external opinion, steadfastly committed to our goals”.
He elaborated that most issues revolved around sourcing quality seeds, technical difficulties, the novelty of the product, and finding a market.
“This product is a novelty, demanding proactive marketing through supermarket penetration, reaching targeted customers, and managing secondary issues,” he added.
On the horizon, ‘City of Sprouts’ has set its sights on partnering with major supermarkets nationwide, introducing two new varieties, and enhancing the quality of packaging and storage.