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On Campus: A vision for sustainable aquaculture

Jitti Intaracharoen, or ‘Ko Mhai’, witnessed the economic devastation in his community on Koh Maphrao during the pandemic. As a Phuketian and Chairman of the Koh Prao Mangrove Forest Community Enterprise Group ‒ a part of the Small and Micro Community Enterprise (SMCE) self-reliance program ‒ he wanted to help his people have a sustainable income.

Sunday 13 November 2022, 11:00AM

The group comprises 22 local community members who have a common way of life in aquaculture conservation on Koh Maphrao (Coconut Island), located off Phuket’s east coast

Equipped with his educational background in Forestry Science from Kasetsart University and Public Administration from the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA), expertise in the field of aquaculture and brackish water aquatic animals, business acumen recognised by the Office of SMEs Promotion (OSMEP), and his family’s over 50 years of experience in marine aquatic farming, Ko Mhai decided to build a platform off the Phuket side of Koh Maphrao to sustainably cultivate marine animals. He named this Intara Farm and opened it in September 2020. 

Thus far, Intara Farm is the only black salmon farm in Phuket. It is built on a three rai floating platform that is flanked by mangrove forests, designed for a sustainable aquaculture in Sapam Bay, a five-minute longtail boat ride from Laem Hin Pier. Intara Farm is more than just a sustainable aquaculture farm, it offers enriching leisure and learning activities, and also operates a farm-to-table seafood restaurant, where all the fresh ingredients come directly from the farm. 

New Beginning, New Hope

The pandemic hit Phuket’s tourism and hospitality industry the hardest, crippling the economy and leaving thousands of people without livelihoods. Many local fishermen were unable to sell their daily catch as many hotels and restaurants were ordered to close indefinitely. The sudden surge of people entering the fishing and agricultural industry only exacerbated the already saturated market. 

In response, Ko Mhai bought the local fishermen’s catch at standard market prices to avoid the collapse of the fish market and placed them in his farm to be conserved and cultivated sustainably. He implemented research-based methodologies that rely on nature as much as possible without using chemicals. He also applied mixed-cultivation for diversification in case of low market demand. This decision helped generate income for many people in his community. 

Intara Farm also wants to create a fun and educational ecotourism site where people can learn about sustainable aquaculture, explore the surrounding flora and mangrove forests, experience the way of life of the local community, engage in environmental-friendly social and leisure activities around the farm, and also taste some delectable fresh seafood at its restaurant. 

Blue Tree Phuket

Charting the Path

Ko Mhai is a hands-on entrepreneur who is not afraid of getting his hands dirty, literally and figuratively. He is always around, doing anything everywhere, so much so that you’d never guess he’s the owner of the farm. Though he doesn’t speak English that well, that doesn’t stop him from passionately sharing his vast knowledge of the flora and fauna in and around the farm, with the help of an equally enthusiastic English-speaking local tour guide named Mayya, who graduated from the Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism at Prince of Songkla University, Phuket Campus (PSU Phuket). 

Visitors to Intara Farm can walk around the farm to see and feed all kinds of marine life, learn about a few aquatic animals and pearl cultivation in depth, go kayaking along the nature trail, participate in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities such as beach garbage collection on Coconut Island and mangrove tree-planting, make tie-dyed shirt using natural colour from the mangrove bark, release aquatic animals to the sea, and feast on some of the freshest seafood around.

Of course with a stunning backdrop and charming architecture, Intara Farm is definitely instagramable. So if you want to have a wholesome ecotourism experience and support the local community, Intara Farm is the place for you, hands down.

By Milla Budiarto

NOTE: This article was featured in ’The Phuket Collegiate Magazine’, the university magazine published by Milla Budiarto at PSU Phuket. The opinion expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PSU Phuket and its employees or official policies. For more information, visit: https://www.phuket.psu.ac.th/en/magazine or email: milla.budiarto@gmail.com

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