Jimmy's job: Worm supplier
At the centre of his livelihood are thousands of wriggling creatures.
While some people would cringe at the mere sight of worms, Mr Jimmy Chen, 38, spends up to 18 hours of his day caring for and nurturing them at his small, albeit rundown, farm in Lim Chu Kang.
His speciality? Superworms and mealworms, which serve as food to bigger fishes and birds.
After acquiring his company for $8,000 from a friend four years ago, Mr Chen's occupation is now a labour of love.
Worm rearing has become something that he trusts nobody but his wife, Mrs Lint Chen, 28, with.
"I'll be uncomfortable if someone else looked after the farm.
"What if they don't look after the worms properly? Feeding the correct amount is super important because if it's too much, the worms can die," he tells The New Paper on Sunday.
"If the worms die, I pay."
Rearing worms is no cakewalk.
First, Mr Chen imports them from a supplier in Malaysia at $12 a kilogram.
Occasionally, he also buys crickets from another farm in Lim Chu Kang to sell to his clients.
He keeps the worms at his farm and sells them to a few middlemen who supply worms to aquariums, the Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park and more than 30 aqua pet shops.
He also dispatches the worms to homes, which order at least a kilo of the goods.
Selling about 40kg of each type of worm a week, along with the occasional sale of crickets to pet shops, Mr Chen says he makes between $2,000 and $2,500 a month.
His daily routine sees him getting up at 4.30am every day to arrive at his farm at about 6am.
Clearing worm faeces from each tub is always first on the to-do list. He then feeds them before packing them in smaller containers in time for his delivery run that starts at noon.
He heads back to the farm at about 7pm for another round of cleaning and feeding.
As part of his business, he also takes back unsold worms from aqua pet stores. He has to clean out the dead ones before returning the live ones to the tubs.
On a good day, Mr Chen heads back to his brother's home in Bedok, where he lives temporarily, at about 10pm. But most of the time, he leaves the farm at midnight before going to bed at 1.30am.
He says: "I am very tired, but what to do? It's work. It's not easy to work seven days a week with only three to five hours of sleep."
It may sound like a relatively successful enterprise, but the profits do not reflect it.
"Fish shops also don't buy very much worms any more. Arowanas are cheaper now because I think people don't buy it as much any more.
"If shops don't sell as many arowanas, then they don't need my worms," he says with a glum look.
Despite the modest pay cheque for him and his wife, they are determined to persevere.
They have developed a small group of loyal customers and they do not want to disappoint these people by folding.
Plus, the creepy crawlies have wormed their way into their hearts.
From screaming and cringing at the sight of the little things, Mrs Chen now has no issue scooping them up barehanded.
One worm even managed to come between them once.
"I remember when we first got the business, he took his hand out of his pocket to hold mine and I felt something slimy between our palms," she laughs.
Mrs Chen adds: "We got into this business together and I'm sure our competitors are waiting to see us fall. But we agreed that we won't go down without a fight. For as long as we can hold on, we will."
'I remember when we first got the business, he took his hand out of his pocket to hold mine and I felt something slimy between our palms.'
- Mrs Lint Chen, on how a worm once 'came between' her and her husband
The longest three seconds of my life
I had to confront my phobias when I walked into Mr Jimmy Chen's farm and saw tubs of creepy crawlies.
My reaction? Goosebumps everywhere.
And to make my life a little more miserable, my editors dared me to pick up a handful of worms.
Then, I was told to leave them in my hands for three seconds.
But I wasn't going to bow out of the challenge - no matter how freaked out I was.
When I asked Mr Chen if the worms bite, he turns around with a cheeky smile and says: "Yes, but don't worry, it's not that painful."
I swear my eyes widened enough for my eyeballs to pop out of their sockets.
I braced myself, clenched my jaw and dipped my hands into the tub of worms.
It was the longest three seconds of my life.
Most of the worms that I scooped up fell right through my fingers because my fingers were stiffly spread wide open.
Nonetheless, I did it and I'm proud of it.
But that doesn't change the fact that I'm never touching worms again.