Aquaculture Innovation Challenge: making impact in aquaculture

Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal, Fresh Studio and Solidaridad kicked off the Aquaculture Innovation Challenge on Tuesday, 6 December 2016, with an inspiring event to bridge the gap between innovators and impact investors in the aquaculture sector.


By 2050, aquaculture production will need to grow by another 70 million tones to meet the world’s seafood demand. The consumption and dependency on seafood for well-being has never been this high. Aquaculture presents a significant opportunity to enhance food security. Vietnam, the fourth largest aquaculture producer in the world, has demonstrated its potential, but the emergence of the aquaculture sector raises major concerns in the country. The role of entrepreneurs will be the key to creating necessary innovations for a sustainable aquaculture sector.

However, to realize ambitions and innovations for the sector, access to finance and capital is critically important. Finding bright minds and enabling them to realize their ambition by connecting them to finance and capital is the main target of the Aquaculture Innovation Challenge.


The challenge is open for online and offline applications from 6 December 2016 until 11 March 2017. Finalists will be invited to an intensive business plan boot camp and pitching event. The best business plans will be awarded a cash investment for initiating the business plan. Winners will be announced in June.

For this challenge, innovations and solutions are sought in three different categories:

  • Design
  • Demonstration
  • Upscaling

Willem Schoustra, project manager for Blue Growth at the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs said, “Aquaculture has an enormous potential as a source of animal protein. There is one condition: we must reach this potential in a sustainable way! The Dutch government is continuously exploring how to contribute best to the development of a sustainable aquaculture sector around the world. The Aquaculture Innovation Challenge is an opportunity to bring together innovation and finance to achieve this goal.”

Support from industry leaders

The Aquaculture Innovation Challenge is supported by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Key partners include Inve Aquaculture and De Heus Vietnam. The competition jury consists of experts with a background in science, business, finance and civil society including partners such as Rabobank, Alterfin, Aqua-Spark, Seafood Connection, Pan Group, Asian Development Bank, eFishery, Wageningen University, ICCO Investments, Australian aid and Solidaridad.

Expected outcome

We aim to find the brightest minds and enabling them to realize their ambition by connecting them to finance and capital and by doing this improving the aquaculture sector in Vietnam.

Read more about the Aquaculture Innovation Challenge on the AIC website: English Vietnamese

Vitalising the Vietnamese potato sector

To reinforce potato production and boost potato consumption in Vietnam 3 companies and 1 institution with the aid of the Dutch government, joined forces to vitalise the Vietnamese potato sector as part of the project “Growing out of poverty with potato”.

Download the latest project results below:


Vietnam is one of the most rapidly developing economies in Southeast Asia, which culminated into the status of middle-income country in 2009. The associated urbanisation and transformation of agricultural land into industry and housing has put pressure on food provision. Despite the fact that there is currently no food shortage in Vietnam, food security is high on the national agenda and the country is essentially depending on rice- 94% of total arable land is rice production.

There is ample potential for the development of a professional potato sector in Vietnam. The tuber offers abundant opportunities to improve food security. Besides, it provides an addition income for farmers due to cultivation period in the rice off-season in North-Vietnam and high yield potential.

Although potato consumption is still low, recent trade statistics clearly demonstrate that the Vietnamese potato sector is not able to produce sufficient potatoes to meet this growing domestic demand. From an import level of fresh potatoes of just US$ 1.1 million in 2003, fresh potato imports expand to US$ 44.6 million in 2011 (UN COMTRADE statistics, 2012). The real figure will probably be double as high, as the large majority of imported potatoes are imported through the Chinese-Vietnamese border, and accurate data of this volume is not available.

Despite the fact that domestic potato demand is higher than local supply, to date potato has remained a low interest crop to both producers and consumers. The development of a professional potato sector is currently trapped in a vicious circle of low-interest – low quality produce: Most farmers are unaware of the economic potential of potato farming. They lack the knowledge on advanced cultivation techniques and good planting materials. Therewith the productivity is low and the disease pressure is high. As a consequence the market, both professional processing industry and end-consumers are met with an inconsistent volume and quality supply. Low yields for farmers and low quality to end-users keep potato in the low interest category.

But even despite being of limited interest, a small increase in per capita potato consumption results in steep rise in demand on a national level with a population approaching 90 million.


“Growing out of Poverty with potato” is a project of Fresh Studio, PepsiCo Food Vietnam, Agrico and Applied Plant Research-WUR and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands within the Facility for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Food Security (FDOV).

To actually realise potato as an important crop for food security, pro-poor development and dietary improvements a holistic approach will be essential in which both the table and processing potato sector will be vitalised simultaneously. The processing potato sourcing is an important economic driver for sector development in terms of economy of scale, continuity and purchase certainty of the production. On the other hand the processing potato sector will benefit from a thriving table potato sector. A larger potato sector will in general result in higher quality production and more interest of farmers to start potato cultivation. Better quality production will result in better consumer appreciation and higher potato consumption levels.

Expected outcome

The desired result for this project is to make Vietnam more self-sufficient in potato production: to create a sustainable potato sector that is able to compete with Chinese imports and is able to supply the domestic table potato market and potato processing industry with a consistent volume and quality offer. The project aims to realise this by:

  • Meeting increasing demand with domestic production by realising larger volumes of better quality and prolonged shelf-life/storability for both processing and table potatoes. Therewith potato consumption contributes effectively to the national food security program of the Vietnam government; a sector of importance to be able to provide a staple alternative to rice.
  • Improved livelihoods through better economic inclusion of the poorest farmer communities through improved and stable income levels resulting from potato cultivation with better quality and higher yields.
  • Improved nutrition of (poor farmer) households; increased table potato consumption to decrease micronutrient deficiency in particular iron in order to diminish anaemia.
  • Increased potato consumption beyond chips and French fries, through increased awareness of the versatility and nutrition of table potato. To introduce table potato as a nutritious alternative to rice.
  • Adoption of new high quality Dutch cultivars in the Vietnam diet: table potatoes that are both different in external appearance and preparation qualities, ones that are more trusted and preferred than imported potatoes.
  • Environmental sustainability: reduce environment pressure and enlarge productivity in terms of both caloric as well as nutritional value per m2.

Newsletters developed by: Schuttelaar & Partners

Fresh Studio trains agricultural SME’s in preparing business/ investment plans

On 7 and 8 April 2016 a team of Fresh Studio consultants existing of local and international agricultural and financial specialists traveled to the Vietnamese city of Tra Vinh in the Mekong Delta, to help local SME’s in the agriculture sector preparing business plans.

The assignment was part of the SNV-IFAD 4P program, whereby SME’s in the agricultural sector in Tra Vinh province can apply for a grant to help fund an investment that will help grow their businesses and contribute to sustainable livelihoods for the rural poor in a changing environment.

The selected companies were active in and had investment proposals focused on, amongst others chili pepper trading, rice trading, hydroponics, poultry/eggs, peanuts, and coconuts.

As most entrepreneurs had little experience in writing formal business plans and making financial models, the workshop started with an introduction to the Business Model Canvas. In this part of the workshop the participants learned about value chains and the concept of building a Business Model Canvas and applied it by making a Business Model Canvas for their own company.

The second day was mostly spent on the financial model. During this session the companies worked closely together with the Fresh Studio consultants on their own financial models. This gave them great insight in the financial viability of their projects and a good understanding of the sensitivity of prices, volumes and costs on their business.

At the end of the workshop the companies stated to have learned a lot and that the training will not only help them to successfully apply for a grant, but also to improve their businesses.

Accelerating a modern greenhouse vegetable production sector

Vietnam has high potential to develop into a more professional and higher value agricultural and horticultural economy. The growing population and pace and scope of retail development results in a demand for higher quality products, food safety, stable supply and more up-scaled and sustainable production. To address these challenges 11 companies and institutions joined forces to develop a modern greenhouse vegetable production sector.


Modern greenhouse vegetable production can provide an innovative solution to meet the fast growing demand for high quality, safe and sustainable produced vegetables, which are year round available.

The region around Da Lat City, Lam Dong Province with its unique climate has seen quite some development of greenhouse production in recent years, but the horticulture vegetable production sector is still characterized by a landscape of small producers with no knowledge of modern greenhouse vegetable production or the means to invest in modern greenhouse technologies.

A consortium consisting of Wageningen UR (PPO), Rabo Development (Rabobank), Fresh Studio, BVB Substrates, Da Lat University, HAS Hogeschool Den Bosch, Koppert Biological Systems, RijkZwaan, Ludvig Svensson, YARA, Priva have joined forces with the aim to accelerate the development of a professional greenhouse horticulture sector by:

  • Introducing and showcasing of modern greenhouse production technologies in order to obtain higher yield, better quality and more sustainable produce.
  • Establishing a platform to facilitate practical training for students and persons working within the horticulture sector
  • Providing the means in knowledge and financial support for farmers to invest in modern greenhouse technologies
  • Establishing a financial product to support investments in modern greenhouse production by local farmers


To accelerate the development of a modern greenhouse vegetable sector, the project develops a solution for bottlenecks below:

  • Relatively low yield levels;
  • Current unsustainable production methods;
  • Low percentage of class I products;
  • Lack of access by farmers to:
    • Means to finance the investment in professional greenhouse production;
    • No product differentiation in the market.
    • Lack of facilities to train students and extension staff in practice


    To overcome these bottlenecks the implementation of the following interventions are included:

    • Develop training and extension materials for professional greenhouse farmers and extension staff of input or service providers
    • Establish professional greenhouse pilot farms and develop the optimal greenhouse production model for the following crops: tomato, sweet pepper and hydroponic lettuce, covering a total production area of 6,000 m2 in Lam Dong province
    • The pilot greenhouse will be used as practical training and demonstration centres
    • In order to market tomato, sweet pepper and lettuce, a market research will be performed to determine the consumption patterns towards these products.
    • Create a brand to market the produced vegetables produced within the project
    • In cooperation with banks and investors, develop a horticulture greenhouse financial lease product, which will pre-finance investments of farmers in greenhouses
    • Establish a technical support system for introduced hardware
    • Create business opportunities for Dutch companies active in the horticulture sector

    Development of professional fresh fish chain

    Since late 2010, the Fresh Studio aquaculture and fisheries team is working very hard for one of Fresh Studio’s clients to assist them in developing the first professional fresh fish chain of Vietnam.

    While for exports the Vietnamese aquaculture sector just focuses on deep frozen export chains for pangasius and shrimp, this chain project focuses on the over 50 fish species which are popular in the domestic market.

    The domestic chain is only fresh fish, which requires strict product quality control. During large fish farmer information sessions, widely covered by the Vietnamese tv and newspapers, the targets for the new fish sourcing system were presented. Hereafter an overwhelming number of farmers registered to join the program. Since then over 250 fish farmers have been trained in the required product specifications and good aquaculture production standard. Soon the first supply of fresh fish through a newly developed professional fresh fish processing facility will start.

    Developing the vegetable seed market for high-quality seeds

    Since 2006, Fresh Studio has been contracted by a Dutch vegetable seed company – one of the world leaders in breeding and distributing innovative high quality vegetable seeds.

    After an extensive seed market study in various countries in Asia, our client contracted us to undertake continuous vegetable variety screening trials at numerous locations in Vietnam, including at our own R&D farm.

    In addition to these trials, we assisted our client in developing the market for their vegetable varieties in Vietnam through farmer field days, and other small chain projects where we link farmers who grow the high quality vegetable varieties our client sells to vegetable processors, vegetable exporters and supermarket chains.