Abandoned pig farm in Yunlin turned into modern cocoa farm

Taipei-A deserted pig farm in the southern county of Yunlin has been converted into a state-of-the-art cocoa farm by a resident there, who returned to Taiwan a few years ago to take care of his ailing father.

Daniel Chen (???) was running a precision technology plant in China when he learned that his father had been diagnosed with cancer and dementia. Chen returned to Taiwan in 2016 and began looking for some farmlands, as the doctors had advised that gardening might help slow the progress of his father's dementia.

In addition, Chen was hoping to create job opportunities for the youth of his home county Yunlin to help slow their migration to urban areas to seek work.

He told CNA that because he had no farming experience, he enrolled in the Farmer Training School in Yunlin, where he began learning about cocoa cultivation.

For example, Chen said, he learned that cocoa fields require one-tenth of the water need to grow rice. This made cocoa an ideal crop for Chen's hometown of Tuku, which has suffered severe land subsidence, a phenomenon that occurs when groundwater leeches from the land due to human or natural factors.

In July 2017, Chen bought an abandoned pig farm, which had been used as a waste disposal site for a while, and he invested NT$300 million (US$10 million) into a farm for growing cocoa.

"It took me a year and a half to complete the soil preparation and land grading for the 1.5 hectare farm in Tuku, before I could even start planting cocoa," said the 47-year-old.

The small cocoa farm began to take shape in early 2019, and it caught the attention of the local government and media when Chen, in collaboration with schools in the area, started offering internships for students interested in pursuing agriculture.

Last year, Taiwanese chocolate expert Lee Chou-hsi (???) offered to help Chen produce a new type of raw chocolate, which is now being used to make products that bring in a monthly revenue of NT$500,000 to NT$600,000.

Chen's plans for the farm have not stopped there, however, as he has turned his attention to developing more efficient farming methods, with the aim of building a sustainable business model that could be expanded to other crops.

On the farm, which now employs 22 people, Chen is building a post-harvest processing facility and a greenhouse that will use an AI system for the control of light, temperature and humidity.

When those two structures are completed sometime around October, Chen said, he will open the farm for public viewing.

Amid all of those plans and achievements, he said, his greatest fulfilment comes from seeing the tremendous improvements in his father's health and spirits, as the elderly man works on the cocoa farm.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel