Fresh Studio joins GMS agricultural ministers meeting in Siem Reap

On 6 to 8 September Fresh Studio joined the Greater Mekong Subregion Ministers Meeting (GMS AMM2) in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The meeting was sponsored by the GMS Core Agriculture Support Program (CASP) within the Asian Development Bank.

This 3-day event focused on safe and sustainable agriculture value chains, facilitating cross-border trade of agricultural products, exchanging best practices and expanding collaboration among stakeholders.

Agriculture ministers from the six GMS countries – Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam – attended the event and endorsed the GMS SEAP Strategy and Siem Reap Action Plan. A lot of activities were held during the event, including meetings, Policy Forum, public-private sector dialogue and Market exhibition of private companies working on organic and innovative agriculture practices.

The event was divided in 3 days

Day 1: Siem Reap Policy Forum

A policy forum on “Developing safe, sustainable and inclusive agro-based value chains in the GMS” was established. This forum connects government, private sector as well as researchers to discuss about the recommendations to make GMS as a reputable supplier of safe agro-products. During the first day René van Rensen, R&D director Crops, presented about Fresh Studio experience on “Food Safety and Quality Assurance on Fruits and Vegetables”. Rene delivered key messages about the value of Vietnam fruit and vegetable products, food safety issues, market access problem and the importance of having effective measures to promote sales within the region.

Day 2: Development Partners’ Forum and the Public-Private Dialogue and Roundtable

The program of the day was divided into plenary and parallel sections of the open and closed-door meetings. The Development Partners’ Forum updated the progress of the program to all partners whilst discussing the synergies and opportunities for enhancing investment in value chain development. The public and private sectors also discussed about the implemention of the GMS Strategy and Action Plan and mechanisms of public and private collaboration.

Day 3: Second GMS Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting

The Ministers of Agriculture from 6 GMS countries discussed and endorsed the Joint Ministerial Statement.

Aquaculture Innovation Challenge selects winning innovation

Expert judges’ favoured Entobel as the innovation with the most potential in the finals of the Aquaculture Innovation Challenge. Entobel uses food industry waste as feed for the production of black soldier flies, a native insect throughout Vietnam.

These plentiful insects are then used to produce fish-feed, as well as fertilizer. The jury said that Entobel “has a really good business approach, has been proven to be successful in the world already and is part of the race for a sustainable protein supply”. The winning team received the $10,000 cash prize and met with investors, both of which will help them scale up their business.

The winner was chosen by the jury team, each of whom selected their 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice of innovation that they believed had the greatest business and impact potential. Gaetan Crielaard, representative of the Entobel team, said, “I’m very happy, obviously. For four years in Vietnam, I’ve been working on this project… [the team] all worked very hard and will be happy when I come back to the factory and say we won. This will help us to run the pilot for a few more weeks or months, allowing me to focus more on fundraising to build this factory. The plan is quite ambitious. While we want to start with one factory, the goal is to build more, first in South Vietnam, then the North, and then other tropical countries with a focus on Southeast Asia, but [eventually] Africa and South America. We believe that what we have built here is really relevant for tropical countries.”

A new generation seeking solutions

Integrating public-private partnerships to jumpstart new solutions contributed much to the success of the challenge. Carl Richter, the consul general of the Dutch consulate in Ho Chi Minh, said, “This is basically what we do as governments. We try to inspire and help start-ups, organizations that are run by young bright people to come up with new ideas and solutions for challenges.”

The urgent need for new solutions is clear. Arie Veldhuizen, the agricultural counselor, warned that “in 40 years we have 10 billion people in the world and we have to feed them. We can’t do it the way that we do it now, we have to do it in a sustainable way… these kinds of initiative are really helping to get this done.” He felt this project was unique because it combined start-ups, innovation, sustainability and helping the small-scale farmer. Nguyen van Khanh, from De Heus, one of the AIC’s core partners, commended the professionalism and organization of the AIC, saying that it gave industry professionals and investors access to some great innovations. It allowed them to choose from some of the best innovations to apply to aquaculture in Vietnam, and “many farmers and companies can learn from it”.

Preparing for future success

Over the last few days, the finalists, with the support of coaches both in Vietnam and remotely, have been practicing and preparing their pitches. Dana Roelofs, who has a background in the financial sector and was one of the coaches present, said that she really noticed vast improvements in all of the teams from the boot camp. That both the flow of their pitch, how they could convey their ideas, and their confidence grew over the three-day session. Her last message to all of the finalists was that fundraising is a long-term game, that they have to be persistent and be patient and wait to find partners with the right fit in order to accomplish their goals. During the match-making session, there was a lot of interest shown in the ideas of all of the participants. The hope of Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal, Solidaridad and Fresh Studio, the organizers of the AIC, is that this interest grows into new partnerships that will shape and improve the aquaculture sector in Vietnam in the near future.

The organizers were happy with the success of the first Aquaculture Innovation Challenge, as well as the presence and participation of so many industry leaders. It’s only through open collaboration that we can continue to face the challenges involved with sustainably feeding our growing population.