Young Scientist’s Agribusiness Hoping to Improve Local Produce

Long Reaksmey Chhorpon said that her business will indirectly boost the income of Cambodian farmers by developing essential oils out of raw agricultural materials. Photo supplied.
  • Sao Sokeng and Phoung Vantha
  • February 16, 2021 1:41 PM

Long Reaksmey Chhorpon said that her business will indirectly boost the income of Cambodian farmers by developing essential oils out of raw agricultural materials.

PHNOM PENH--Farmers in Kandal, Prey Veng, Kampong Speu and Kampot provinces have seen an unexpected boost in their incomes since HathKal Lab has purchased a range of their leftover raw materials to transform into essential oils.

“The production of vegetable oils is a contribution in that it allows farmers’ excess products to find a market,” said Long Reaksmey Chhorpon, founder of HathKal Lab, adding that she will be buying between 50 to 100 kilograms of agricultural materials each month and is currently negotiating with farmers over prices.

As a young girl, Reaksmey Chhorpon said that it was her dream to become a scientist, which she has now realized and is using to promote local agricultural products by having farmers supply leftovers and raw materials directly to her laboratory.  

The materials are then converted into essential oils, which she markets to a range of industries. So far she has experimented with creating oils from lemongrass, rice paddy herbs and coconuts.

However, she noted that the seasonal planting of many Cambodian products means that she will have to branch out beyond these three materials so that she can develop a sustainable supply chain.

“We only support 100 percent locally made produce,” she said. “Pure essential oil can be used in many ways, as a scented oil, as massage oil, to add fragrance to a room and as a component in cosmetic products: People can add these scents to whatever they want, for example people can mix lemongrass essential oils with hand sanitizer.”

Reaksmey Chhorpon went on to say that unlike fragrance oils, her essential oils are 100 percent natural and contain nothing beyond what is extracted from the plant, so they are fit for human consumption and can be added to dishes like soup.

Having graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering and Food Technology, Chhorpon said that she started research on natural oil production from agricultural raw materials in 2016, but spent two years researching the methods before she had a breakthrough with oils made from oils, limes and jasmine.

After mastering the science, Reaksmey Chhorpon set about studying the market, finding investment partners and how to market the products. It was only mid-2020 that HathKal Lab finally opened for business.

“Although it has only just entered the market, the natural oil products of HathKal Lab have received considerable support and already people are ordering online via the HathKal Lab Facebook page,” she said.

As an entrepreneur, she also has ambitions to export her natural oils and other products from Cambodia to overseas markets in the future, but noted that she will need to work on creating export quality goods.

“My goal is to refine Cambodian agricultural products as final-products for export to enhance the image of Cambodia,” she said. “I want to produce natural oils that can stand on the international market because I believe in Cambodian agricultural products.”

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