|From Agriculture Assistant To "Soil Rejuvenator"
By Cik Rashidah Abd Ghani
KUALA LUMPUR, May 9 (Bernama) -- Experience on farming methods and soil fertility has proven to be invaluable for former agriculture assistant Mohamad Azoddin.
Mohamad, who served with the Kedah Agriculture Department for 23 years from 1971, has come out with a "miracle" for local farmers -- a biotechnology product that can rejuvenate soil that is written off as infertile, to that which is suitable for crop cultivation.
It does not matter if the soil is parched and dried up, or too hard to grow any plant, Mohamad's product can work its "wonders" making the soil fertile and suitable for farming.
Mohamad's creation, the "Biost Soil Treatment" (Biost) product, is able to rejuvenate deteriorating or damaged roots, boost growth and stimulates formation of leaves and fruits apart from improving harvest.
The product also improves the crops' quality and lifespan.
Soil-enriching microbes play an important role in providing nutrients like nitrogen as well as the soil's fertility.
These microbes, also known as "effective micro-organisms (EM)", like the Rhyzo bacteria, Azotobacter, Bassillus Spp, Mycorrhyza and Trychoderma Spp have revolutionised the concept of conserving the soil's fertility.
These microbes minimise use of chemicals particularly fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides as excessive and uncontrolled use of such chemical-laden substances would ultimately result in destruction of the soil's texture and fertility.
Besides enhancing plant growth, these microbes also induce formation of buds and healthier shoots as well as greener and bigger leaves.
Fruit trees planted on soil treated with Biost produce bountiful harvests as their roots become healthier due to the enriched soil, hence capable of absorbing more nutrients for the plants.
Mohamad, who studied at the Malaysian Agriculture Institute (which later became Universiti Pertanian Malaysia and now Universiti Putra Malaysia) from 1971 to 1974, came out with the Biost product in 1997, via his company Chengai Indah Enterprise.
He said Biost is a product that has soil-enriching microbes biotechnologically mixed with over 30 natural substances like nutrients, minerals, vitamins, enzymes, proteins and amino acids -- needed for long-term enrichment of soil.
Mohamad said some of the raw materials for Biost are imported while the rest are sourced locally.
Meanwhile, Chengai Indah Enterprise is a producer of agro-based organic and biotechnology products.
Among the company's products under the Biost banner are the Bio Indah Organic Soil Treatment, Biost-Repella which is a herbicide, Biost Soil Conditioner, bio-organic fertiliser Biost-EM Bokashi and the Biost Cotton Ball for orchids and water/hydroponic plants.
These root-wrapping cotton balls not only enhance the plant's growth but also prevents breeding of mosquito larva in pots.
METHODS OF APPLICATION
Mohamad said there are several methods of application for the Biost Soil Treatment product.
Biost can be mixed with zeolite apart from organic and chemical-based fertilisers. It also works well with soil and fertigation extracts.
The substance can be deposited or scattered on the soil at the plant's plant's base or dissolved in water and the resulting liquid can be poured or sprayed on the soil.
Biost can also be turned into small sachets and placed near the plant roots.
"This product can be very popular if the public knows its significance," said Mohamad, adding that Biost should not be confused with fertilisers as it does not function as one.
"The bottom line is that Biost is a soil treatment agent," he said.
Biost can be used with fertilisers and it is slow reacting, taking one to four weeks.
If excessively used, Biost has no detrimental effects on plants and their roots and the substance is suitable for all types of plants including those that develop roots above the soil surface like orchids.
Biost is the first of such product in Malaysia. If used for oil palm trees, the results can be seen by the presence of numerous earthworms near the trees and the soil turning black.
Mohamad said Biost would help farmers cut costs as it also enhances performance and effectiveness of other fertilisers.
He said the problem where some fertilisers are found ineffective actually lies with the soil which had been badly affected and deteriorated.
"There are good-quality fertilisers available in the market, especially of the bio-type. However these fertilisers are not capable of rejuvenating the soil, only providing nutrients to the plants," said Mohamad.
ENOUGH LAND FOR CULTIVATION
To claims that there is not enough land for cultivation in the country, Mohamad said: "Our country has more than adequate land for agriculture.
"Actually we are not lacking land, only that the soil is not really fertile. It is sometimes too hard, sandy or clay-like, but Biost helps to rejuvenate such soil.
Mohamad said Biost is effective as a soil enricher as it releases trapped nutrients and minerals, stimulating and accelerating growth of new roots.
"Biost is actually economical as it makes crops healthier and have longer life span as the plants would be more resistant to diseases. It reduces dependency on fertilisers and herbicides, thus cutting costs in the long run".
"Biost should not be mistaken for a fertiliser, as it only treats the soil making it suitable for cultivation.
HOPES AND TARGET
Mohamad recalls the early days after he left the department and set up the company in 1997.
"I almost gave up after find obstacle after obstacle in my path. The biggest stumbling block is the funding".
Mohamad said he faced difficulties in getting bank loans to develop Biost and the relevant agencies were of no help either.
"There was no assistance for facilities or space to market the Biost".
The entrepreneur calls on relevant agencies particularly those associated with agriculture to try out Biost and its series of products.
"They can test it on idle land or that which is barren".
Mohamad said he is trying to expand the Biost market and is looking for more distributors for Cengai Indah Enterprise's products.
Despite facing problems distributing Biost, Mohamad took his own initiative to market his products at night and farmer's markets as well as the Alor Star general market.
He even opened up a Cengai Indah Enterprise in Shah Alam.
Mohamad has some advice for Malay agri-entrepreneurs
"If there are too many entrepreneurs coming out with similar products, ultimately there would be surplus for such products".
He said it is a simple case of supply and demand. When there is over-supply, demand would automatically drop.
"Let the experts of certain products carry on with their production while others should try out new fields. This would create a healthy market and competition".
Mohamad said agri-entrepreneurs like him need the government's assistance for their operations to last.
"Government agencies can help us by providing grants or loans, business space for entrepreneurs to sell their products as well as the marketing.
"These agencies can also assist wholesalers and distributors. Many of them buy our products on credit, to the extent where we do not have enough funds for revolving capital.
"If the government assist them in buying cash, then it would ease our cash flow," he said.
Mohamad said he is disappointed when his efforts to make Biost a well known product failed to garner assistance from the relevant agencies in terms of marketing and promotions either locally or abroad.
After being in production for some 10 years, Mohamad said Biost and its related products have yet to get appropriate recognition.
"Nobody came to take this product for verification purposes. No certificate was ever issued. They (agencies) just came and make observations.
"That was all. There was never any request to take this product for tests," said Mohamad.
This setbacks had pushed Mohamad to work harder. He even went to Shah Alam and Klang, Selangor to promote the Biost.
"Patience and resolve make me survive in this field. But I need and effective networking for my products," he said.
At the moment, Mohamad is assisted by his children.
"I hope they would succeed if I stumble," said Mohamad.
Mohamad's priority is to find more distribution channels as a wider network would enhance Biost's market. At present he has 25 agents nationwide.
"At a glance, the price of Biost appears to be expensive. But if its impacts and long-term significance are taken into account, then Biost is economically worthy".
A 300gm pack of biost sells for RM4, 500gm (RM6.50), one kg (RM10), five kg (RM40), 10 kg (RM75) and 20 kg (RM140). As for purchases of more than 20 kg, the price is negotiable.
Biost has obtained patent rights from the Intellectual Property Corporation.