Janson Chan believes in the importance of agriculture for self-sustenance which is why he left his job at a bank to pursue a life of an agropreneur in the agriculture industry.
What’s your story?
Food safety and security are growing issues globally, and according to the United Nations (UN), by 2050 with the world population is expected to reach close to 10 billion people, by then our food supplies will be under far greater stress. Closer to home in Singapore, food security has become more pronounced with the recent reports by Malaysia limiting or stopping egg supplies to Singapore including other food produce as well at a time when we only produce approximately 10% of the food needed for our own consumption. Singaporeans have overlooked the fact that we as a nation are mostly relying on imports/exports for food resources. Question is, in times of crisis, do we have the capability to be a self-sustaining country? Before this phenomenon happened, I could anticipate food safety and security being pertinent not just for Singapore, but globally as well, which was why I left my comfortable job at the bank to pursue a life of an agropreneur in the agriculture industry. My dream is to “make mushrooms sexy again!” and create awareness on the benefits of consuming mushrooms as part of a balanced lifestyle for health purposes. I also see an opportunity to be the leading brand for mushrooms globally!
What excites you most about your industry?
Many things excite me about the industry. First, it is fragmented globally and there is no leader in the Mushroom Industry – I envision Mushroom Kingdom to be the leading brand for mushrooms globally, like Zespri is a major brand for Kiwi Fruits, Del Monte is a major brand for Bananas and Driscoll is a major brand for strawberries. Secondly, it is the ability to change the consumption habits of the nation and the generations to come, and thirdly which is our ability to make a difference in people’s lives by making farming accessible for everyone even if they have no experience, and would love them to have their food tasty and nutritious at the same time.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I am a Singaporean, the brand is Asia-focused and the headquarters is in Singapore. Our operations are mainly in Southeast Asia, with our future listing anticipated to be in Australasia – all in Asia. Our fresh produce comes mainly from Malaysia through our partner farms and our FMCG product – the Shrooms Bites is sold in Singapore, Malaysia and currently expanding into China, Indonesia and Vietnam. Hence, we’re a rather “Asian” business. In addition, my business partners also have vast networks in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia and China.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I do not have a favourite city in mind because I believe that every city has its virtues and challenges. We’ll just have to improvise, adapt and overcome.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“There is no value in anything until it is finished” – Genghis Khan
Who inspires you?
Geshe Michael Roach. Jack Ma.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The “Emptiness” of things. Alternate realities occurring at the same time. Understanding this makes everything possible. You can stare at the same writing instrument and you call it a pen but a dog treats it like a chew toy. Similarly, I view the rise in emphasis on fintech to be a calling for people to focus on sustainability.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would go through every single decision that I’ve made – good or bad because they made me who I am today. The only thing I would change is to take my health seriously by exercising regularly which is good for me in the long run.
How do you unwind?
I believe in meditation to calm myself during stressful times. I will resort to cooking our farm-grown mushrooms to de-stress as well. I like to share good food with people around me as I believe food tastes better when you share them with one another.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand. I’m comfortable with their culture and personally enjoy Thai cuisine tremendously. This is also because I’m able to understand basic Thai language.
Everyone in business should read this book:
The Diamond Cutter by Geshe Michael Roach
Shameless plug for your business:
We go beyond freshness. We ensure you receive your mushrooms fresh – 48 hours from harvest. We believe that our mushroom derivatives can be nutritious, tasty AND addictive at the same time – just try our Shroom Bites, the resealable ziplock feature that is on our packaging has been redundant thus far!
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.