2 David (third from left) with local smallholder farmers in Netafarm Thailand[91]

"Because Christ died for everyone, we hire and work with people regardless of their faith," says David Tan (third from left), seen here with local smallholder farmers in Netafarm Thailand. All photos courtesy of David Tan via Methodist Message.

When David Tan ran his business of computerising supply chains during the dot-com era over 20 years ago, he told God: “This is my blueprint.

“Please bless me and I will go and bless your people.” He called it his “business with a mission”.

David describes his new company as “a mission with a business”.

But God had other plans: The dot-com bubble burst and his business folded.

When he recovered from the crisis, a humbled David said a different prayer. He asked God for direction instead.

God opened doors and led him to the founding of Netatech, a company which provides environmental engineering solutions.

David, now 57, describes his new company as “a mission with a business”.

Netatech helps clients implement solutions such as irrigation, rainwater harvesting, high-tech greenhousing and vertical farms.

Now for David, “missions comes first” even while dealing with scientific solutions.

Greenhouses for growing vegetables in Maetho, Thailand.

He cites the example of a project in Maetho, Thailand, where David’s business partners provided funds to build 40 greenhouses in the padi fields belonging to the mother-in-law of a Christian colleague, Tinnakorn John.

“We choose to work with someone in the marketplace with a heart for God. We get to know them, share each other’s challenges and pray together. We take our time to grow the relationship,” he said.

A farm worker using an automatic seeding machine on Netafarm in Singapore.

“As farmers, we know we can only plant the seeds and tend to the plants, but the Lord brings the harvest.”

These Netafarm greenhouses produce enough Chinese spinach, lettuce, coriander and cabbage to be shipped back to Singapore twice a week. Better yet, the harvest includes more than just vegetables.

Building relationships

Lamon, the owner of the land in Thailand on which Netatech built 40 greenhouses, is the mother-in-law of David’s Christian colleague, Tinnakorn John.

A member of the farming community in Maetho using the irrigation automation system.

Lamon was reputedly a shaman and, being attuned to the spiritual realm, was able to sense that something was different about David and Netatech.

As part of David’s arrangement of caring for the spiritual lives of his business partners, he befriended the pastor of the village church, who became a mentor to the employees on the farm.

Lamon getting baptised in 2019.

They turned to the pastor for spiritual guidance despite not being believers. As a result, Lamon herself eventually converted to Christianity and was baptised in 2019.

“Our motivation for helping them comes from something bigger – the love of God.”

David adds: “We need partners who are business people who can create a viable business for the community. We take care of the technology and the finances. We are a for-profit business so that we can use the profits to help people.

“But we are not missionaries who teach the Gospel. For this, God provides a spiritual guide, such as a pastor.

“The people realise that our interest in them is not just financial. They also realise we care for their spiritual well-being.

“Our motivation for helping them comes from something bigger – the love of God.

“We love them and build relationships with them.”

Hope and a guiding light

While David is clear about his mission objective, he is equally clear about how Netatech should be run.

David and his team praying for a pastor in Maetho.

“We want to be known for our business.

“When they know the light doesn’t come from us, they can build a relationship with the Source.”

“Our faith is woven into our personal lives. We are all not perfect and we need Christ. And because Christ died for everyone, we hire and work with people regardless of their faith.”

Currently, Netatech is working with halfway house Breakthrough Missions to set-up a vegetable farm to support the farm-to-table concept for Breakthrough’s food and beverage business.

This will also help Breakthrough be more self-sufficient when they grow their own vegetables.

This modelling of Christian values in a business setting is a testimony of God’s work in the lives of David and those in his team who are believers.

He said: “We want to help people, whether or not they are Christians, especially young people.

“They need a hope and a guiding light. When they know the light doesn’t come from us, they can build a relationship with the Source. We just point them in the right direction.”

This devotional was first published in the Methodist Message in April 2023. It has been republished with permission. 


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About the author

Janice Khoo, via Methodist Message

Janice Khoo serves in the Choir and Media & Comms Ministry at Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.