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Young entrepreneur serves Iranian niche market with DIY hydroponicsA 30-year-old Canadian law school graduate is currently pioneering the niche market for fresh leafy greens and aromatic herbs in Tehran, Iran. Born and raised in Canada to Iranian parents, Sam Sadeghi decided to return to his family roots after he noticed the vast opportunities in the Iranian fresh produce industry.
Two years later, Sadeghi runs an impressive commercial leafy greens farm that employs 40 people and consistently markets its leafy greens as a premium product to over one hundred high end restaurants in the city and to Carrefour's Hyperstar supermarkets.
Sadeghi started his Iranian adventure in Mashhad, the second largest city of Iran. He used his life's savings to set up a 6,000 square meter greenhouse on his father's estate. For a while, he was growing hydroponic lettuce and aeroponic “mini-tuber” potato seedlings. "Business was good with the potato seeds since my price was significantly more competitive than big foreign exporters such as Agrico and HZPC. Nonetheless, the local market was not ready for the living lettuce, nor was it interested in paying a little extra for quality produce. This made me suspend my activities in order to move over to Tehran, a modern metropolis of 18 million consumers with more receptive attitudes toward novel products. Albeit, I knew that I still had to pioneer and set up a clever campaign in order to inform consumers from all walks of life about these products."
The young entrepreneur got in touch with influential TV chefs that started to use his products in their programs and he also got acquainted with local restaurants. "I created a market from scratch and advised top chefs on how they could use my products in their kitchen. Some restaurants designed their menus according to my offer."
This is when things started to roll, and as Sadeghi's products were well received by the upper middle class in Tehran, the demand for his products increased quite rapidly. "We have established good relations with Carrefour's Hyperstar. We grow varieties that are not available on the mainstream market yet and we currently sell them about 2,000 heads of living lettuce per day and a wide array of other premium leafy greens and aromatic herbs."
In Tehran’s vicinity, Sadeghi rents an existing greenhouse complex spread over five hectares which formerly served as a site for rose production. He improved the space in order to make it suitable for hydroponic production of leafy greens and aromatic herbs. "I designed a DIY growing system that roughly cost 8$ per square meter and allowed me to grow 25 heads of lettuce per square meter in 34 days. We employ roughly 40 people, where with the exception of an automatic nursery seeding machine, much of the work is carried out by hand, from transplanting, weeding, harvesting, sorting, weighing and packaging."
Besides a range of culinary greens and herbs, Future Farm Iran's main crops are living lettuce varieties. "Amongst others, we use seeds from Rijk Zwaan, which are very good, well suited, pelleted seeds with high germination rates. I was recently paid a visit by the regional manager of the Dutch seed breeder, who was very happy with the work that I carried out over here as I was one of the first to introduce their flagship lettuce varieties to the Iranian market and consumers."
The former lawyer hopes that his story will inspire other farmers and entrepreneurs. "Running in parallel to my academic studies I would regularly read about sophisticated agricultural techniques and practices, amassing about 40-50 books on the subject over the years. Three years ago I decided to put into practice the knowledge that I had acquired by renting a small greenhouse in Canada’s Niagara region. I ended up successfully growing hydroponic tomatoes that bore many fruits! It was there that I decided to draw the line between pursuing a monotonous metro, work, sleep routine versus pursuing what I’m truly passionate about. My philosophy was that I had already lived half of my productive life by the book, bringing me to the conclusion that I want to live the remaining half my own way, detaching myself from the dictates of conventional life. This led me to take the radical decision of resigning from my job, liquidating my assets and investing the proceeds towards my dreams in Iran. Without any formal background in agriculture, I have been able to build an entire growing system with used materials. This can be interesting for farmers with limited means, as I have proven that you do not need a lot of fancy expensive technology to create a sophisticated system with an output that is close to being on par with professional hydroponic growing systems.
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Future Farm Iran
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