neofarmers’ mission is to remove the chemical-added harmful food items from kitchen shelves and also reconnect the new generation to their roots by introducing them to many traditional grains and ingredients that are no longer used today
They call it the forbidden rice in China, explained Spondon, while opening a packet of black Binni rice and pouring some grains in a bowl.
The deep-purple hue of this rice comes from a pigment called Anthocyanin, which has antioxidant properties. It is a good source of several nutrients including protein, fibre, and iron.
"This rice boosts heart and eye health; is gluten-free and can help you lose weight," Spondon reads from the package.
The rice has a rich history – in ancient China, only the royals could eat this rice and the subjects were barred from buying it.
But now, it is being grown in many parts of the world. In Bangladesh, this rice is grown on the hills of Bandarban and each kg is sold at Tk250 by neofarmers.
In conversation, Tamzid Siddiq Spondon talked about neofarmers, a brand that introduced naturally grown, chemical free food items and health products and became the talk of the town since he launched it in 2017.
Neofarmers' mission is to remove the chemical-added harmful food items from kitchen shelves and also reconnect the new generation to their roots by introducing them to many traditional grains and ingredients that are no longer used today.
It also seeks to promote a healthy lifestyle and has launched a series of Ayurvedic products that promote good health for all.
There are many other types of grains available at neofarmers.
These include the types which are not very popular among the new generation or are unavailable in the groceries across the capital.
The prices range between Tk105 to Tk395 per kilo. The types include unfamiliar grains like Bashful, Kaun, Balam, and many others.
Over the years, food safety has remained a concern among consumers as packaging companies have been adding too many preservatives to keep the items fresh for a long time.
Also, the media has reported on food adulteration and hazardous factories which produce items like biscuits, bread, and many other items that we consume day-to-day.
Neofarmers believes in healthy snacks and therefore, introduced nuts that can be consumed as mid-meal snack. There are different types of nuts to choose from and the prices range between Tk110 and Tk415.
"Almost every item is hazardous. For example, formalin is added to fish to keep it fresh, fruits have chemicals to keep them fresh. We all know these facts and yet, we are consuming them. Do we know what these chemicals can do to us?" he asked.
The problem lies at the core of farming. Many farmers in rural areas are not aware of the repercussions of the chemicals they are using in their crops.
"The insecticide used on crops are entering human bodies with the food, opening gates to serious health hazards," Spondon said, adding that the first step towards having safe food is to ensure safe fertiliser and insecticide for the crops and raising awareness among farmers.
So the question rises, where is safe food?
Spondon said that he has been searching for the answer for a long time too.
"My fatherhood was the first trigger towards introducing neofarmers because like every parent, I also wanted my children to eat healthy and safe food," he said.
The journey began in 2017 when Spondon and his friends came together to introduce a brand people can trust. Neofarmers started its journey with the tagline - "naturally grown and honestly packed".
Spondon recalled his early days when the venture was taking baby-steps.
"Initially, we decided to start on a small-scale and keep it at a boutique level. Some of our first range of products include peanut butter, Gawa ghee, mustard oil, spices, and nuts," he recalled.
Two of neofarmers' most popular items are peanut butter and "khejur gur" (molasses) from Jashore.
"The store-bought peanut butter contains preservatives that keep it intact for months but the one we give you will not last that long because we do not add any preservatives," he said.
There are three types of peanut butter available at neofarmers - creamy, chunky, and sugar-free; all priced between Tk320-340 for every 200gm jar and a jar of molasses is Tk390.
"If you love honey, there is good news for you. We also offer pure honey," Spondon said.
Neofarmers started its journey through its Facebook page and its website. With time, it has added a wide variety of products. Customers can visit the page or the website to order the items and also learn about them.
"Neofarmers is not a usual online grocery store. Through this venture, we are trying to reunite the new generation to its roots," Spondon said.
Before launching neofarmers, Spondon did extensive research on Bangladesh's food industry. He looked out for different types of rice that are grown all over the country and also went on to find spices and Ayurvedic treatments, which have been at the core of our traditions.
"The new generation has no idea about the rich food history of our country. So we decided to re-introduce the history to them. For that, we have devised a very interesting idea; we are putting up stories with every product which will tell you about its origin," he added.
Spondon and his team have put a lot of effort into packaging. Firstly, they have used eco-friendly packages for most of the products and each package tells a story about the content it carries.
For example, the binni turmeric package narrates the story of the hills of Bandarban where it is produced by the jumma people. Each 200gm pack of turmeric costs around Tk145.
Besides, neofarmers has many other spices listed on their website and Facebook page.
"Each product has a story. We are writing these down for our customers so that they can reconnect with the roots," Spondon said.
The story, however, does not end here.
Spondon walked an extra mile and devised a plan that would be sustainable. "Another problem in our country is depriving our farmers of their profit. I wanted neofarmers to address that problem as well," he said.
"We have reached out to rural farmers so that we can educate them about harmful insecticides and fertilisers and ask them to stop using those on the crops. Also, we want to break the chain of middlemen who are depriving these farmers of their profits," Spondon added.
In the last three years, neofarmers has joined hands with many farmers across the country who are now being benefitted by the project.
But as a lifestyle brand, Spondon has also focused on healthy living and Ayurveda, a traditional practice in the subcontinent, that ensures a healthy mind and soul.
Keeping that in mind, he has launched a series of items and essential oils that will promote good health.
The brand is also known for offering different types of oils to its customers.
For example, the mixed hair oil, extra virgin coconut oil, mustard oil, onion oil, sesame oil, and almond oil have been highly praised by users. The oil prices range between Tk160 and Tk790.
Besides, neofarmers is also gaining popularity for its range of Ayurvedic products which include protein powder, moringa powder, ashwagandha, rose petal powder, and many others. The prices range between Tk95 and Tk550.
"A healthy life is a 360-degree thing for which you need to be healthy with your food choices and lifestyle, and that is what neofarmers is promoting. As more and more antibiotics and chemicals get into our bodies, it is doing more harm every day, so we launched our series of Ayurvedic products to cleanse the body from the inside and keep it healthy from the outside," Spondon concluded.