The Transition Facility (TF) project “Accelerating the development of modern greenhouse vegetable production in Vietnam”, supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign affairs started in 2014 in Lam Dong province. This project is coming to a close. To highlight the innovations introduced and celebrate the achievements a Dutch Horticulture Open House was organized at the R&D farm of Fresh Studio in Dalat.
The first ever Dutch Horticulture Open House was a huge success with over 300 attending farmers. Greenhouse technologies used within the project were exposed and demonstrated to farmers and project partners during the event. The Open House provided ample opportunities for networking and discussions. Also, the six pilot farmers, whom invested in imported greenhouses, were put into the spotlight.
The following results clearly show that this project contributed to the accelerated development of modern greenhouse production in Vietnam and has created a foundation to further introduce Dutch greenhouse technologies in Vietnam:
> 720 farmers trained in modern greenhouse production
6 Modern greenhouse established with 6 pilot farmers
4 vegetable brands created
3 Training manuals developed
Successful commercial introduction of various new inputs
Next disbursement of loans of 300,000 EUR to invest in modern greenhouse production in preparation
These results would not have been achieved without the contribution and support of all the project partners. We are grateful for this cooperation and look forward to see you all during the next Horticulture Open House at our R&D farm in 2018.
Photo impression of Dutch Horticulture Open House
This development is a result of the collaboration with project:
Dutch feed giant Royal De Heus Animal Nutrition is to strengthen its position in Vietnam’s aquaculture sector in 2017, with the opening of a new research facility in partnership with R&D and consultancy firm Fresh Studio.
The center – due to officially open in spring 2017 – will initially focus on developing knowledge of pangasius, tilapia, snakehead and shrimp feeds. The aim is to improve the feeding performance of these species, to maximize animal growth and limit wastage of resources, Fresh Studio’s managing director Siebe van Wijk told Undercurrent News.
“We hope our work can improve efficiency, quality, and stability; that’s how we can start developing the whole supply chain, into a value chain.“
Mr. Siebe van Wijk – Director Fresh Studio
Fresh Studio began its work in the horticulture sector in Vietnam, where one of the largest supermarket chains in the world contracted it to develop direct farmer sourcing systems, he said. To ensure farmers complied with the quality standards of Fresh Studio’s client, Fresh Studio developed an extension service and an R&D and demonstration farm. “Within a period of ten years the combination of applied research, extension and cooperation with a large number of technology companies, resulted in the successful introduction of value-adding innovations to thousands of farmers.“
Indoors at the new center
Based on this success, Fresh Studio’s client retailer contracted it to develop the same sourcing system for aquaculture. While developing this sourcing system, Fresh Studio too saw the need for the same applied R&D approach in the aquaculture sector, said van Wijk. De Heus, which had just made its first investment in the fish feed sector, saw the same need, and the first partnership stages were formed.
De Heus first became active in Vietnam in 2008, and completed a new factory there in April 2016. Now, two years after the partnership formed, their six hectare facility in Vinh Long Province, Mekong Delta, has an operating, indoor recirculation aquaculture system. Work on the outdoor area is being completed currently.
From Fresh Studio’s presentation at the Aquaculture Innovation Challenge event
The R&D farm was funded through a public private partnership between De Heus, Fresh Studio and an R&D grant from the Dutch government. Links with science were made by involving Can Tho University and Wageningen University. For De Heus, this R&D facility should develop into a key innovation center for its aquaculture feed programs in other Southeast Asian nations, as well as important other fish feed markets, such as China, and Egypt. After one year of research on pangasius and tilapia, the facility is now moving into snakehead and shrimp, said van Wijk, and will branch out into feeding technology and “pure research” on feed, to “provide concrete solutions to farmers on improved feed management”.
The site, as seen from Google Maps
Presenting the initiative at the “Aquaculture Innovation Challenge” in Ho Chi Minh – organized by the Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal, Solidaridad, and Fresh Studio early in December – van Wijk noted that pangasius selling prices at retail were trending downwards, while production costs have risen over the past 16 years. Hence the need for research into feed; feed costs make up over 90% of pangasius farming, and 85% of the cost of producing tilapia too.
Aside from this, poor seed quality and disease outbreaks can also eat into profits for farmers, he noted. When it comes to FRCs, a slight improvement could mean a big difference to margins. Currently salmon’s average feed conversion ratio (FCR) is around 1.1, while pangasius is 1.5 and tilapia 2.6, according to data he presented.
“There’s certainly room for improvement to get a bit nearer that 1.1 mark for pangasius, and that would mean real savings.”
For instance, working on the basis of a pangasius maket price of VND 21,000 per kilogram, an FCR improvement from 1.5 to 1.2 could mean savings of 20%, or VND 4,050/kg, he said. In turn this could lead to an upward spiral of better products and higher yields, improving demand, and ultimately earning higher prices, Fresh Studio hopes.
From Fresh Studio’s presentation at the Aquaculture Innovation Challenge event
“We expect indirect savings also. From the farm side, because less feed will be used per pond, less organic matters will be released into the ponds which should limit both the pumping costs to exchange water, and treatment costs to cure diseases.”
From a market perspective, these improvements should be perceived positively, and may play a part in driving higher market prices in the long-term, it is hoped. By the time the official opening comes around, De Heus and Fresh Studio will announce collaborations with other key players in the aquaculture sector, who want their technologies and production systems tested and further improved, he said.
HollandDoor and Fresh Studio in collaboration with Nong Lam University organized the first training week of a 2 week practical training course to build the capacity of 20 key persons active in protected horticulture in the south of Vietnam.
The practical training course was held from 24 – 28 October at the Agricultural High Tech Park in Cu Chi. For this training week 3 greenhouse crops (tomato, melon and lettuce) were established as practical training locations.
The training deals with:
Knowledge transfer and skills training in the field of market-oriented, sustainable (protected) cultivation
Training on appropriate, practical training methods for farmers, engineers and students (including course and materials development)
Training on the concept of knowledge sharing between farmers and sme’s (study groups)
During the first practical training week participants were trained by Jos Leeters, Geerten van der Lugt, Lo Xuan Dung and René van Rensen in:
Fertigation and irrigation strategies for greenhouse crops
Measuring and monitoring farm activities and greenhouse crops
Substrate characteristics and usage
Supply chain and market trends
Through presentations, practical exercises and group discussion the trainees gained valuable insights in these subjects and how to apply these within the local situation. The enthusiasm of both the trainers and trainees resulted not only in a very successful and but also enjoyable training week as can be seen in the photo impression of the training week.
This practical training course was offered with the financial support of EP Nuffic and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.
As part of the Transition Facility project “Accelerating the development of a modern greenhouse vegetable production sector in Vietnam” hydroponic lettuce production and biological control of pests in greenhouse vegetables are successfully applied at the R&D Farm of Fresh Studio.
Lettuce is a major crop in Lam Dong province and grown year round. The majority of the lettuce is sold in Ho Chi Minh City. In the rainy season the challenge for farmers is to produce good quality lettuce as disease pressure is high. In the dry season availability of sufficient irrigation water is becoming also a challenge as this dry season has shown. A solution for both challenges is to grown lettuce on a hydroponic system (Nutrient Film Technique). This technique has been successfully tested at the R&D Farm of Fresh Studio as part of the Transition Facility project “Accelerating the development of a modern greenhouse vegetable production sector in Vietnam”. With this system farmers are able to harvest up to 14 rounds of lettuce from the same area for the fastest growing lettuce types, greatly increasing productivity per m2. Due to the very hygienic growing conditions, disease pressure is kept at a minimum enabling top quality lettuce to be produced year round. The closed irrigation system ensures no water is lost. Compared to growing lettuce in the soil, the amount of water needed to produce the same volume of lettuce with the hydroponic production is estimated to be > 75% lower.
Keeping pest under control and ensuring food safety is a challenge in Vietnam as greenhouse vegetables often need to be harvested daily, while the interval to harvest vegetables after applying a crop protection product is several days to over one week. In the Netherlands pest insects are mainly controlled in a biological way through natural enemies. This technique was successfully tested for cucumber and sweet pepper at the R&D Farm of Fresh Studio. Trails for tomato are planned for later in the year. Besides eliminating the need to apply pesticides to keep pest insects under control, the trial results indicate that the average production also increases, due to the more regular harvest. Through this technology food safety can be increased, while farmers can still be competitive with their vegetable selling price.
Both technologies are demonstrated and shown to local Vietnamese farmers and farmers have started to commercially apply both technologies. A clear sign that the project’s objective, accelerating the development of a modern greenhouse vegetable production sector in Vietnam, is on the right track.
This project is implemented by a consortium consisting of Wageningen University, Rabobank Foundation, Fresh Studio, BVB Substrates, Da Lat University, HAS Hogeschool Den Bosch, Koppert Biological Systems, Rijk Zwaan, Ludvig Svensson, YARA, CMF and Priva and supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In early December 2015, Fresh Studio was contracted to organize “Vietnam Fresh Produce Value Chain” study tour. The delegation consisted of 17 participants from both public and private sectors in horticulture.
The key objective of the study tour was to provide the delegates with insights into value chain development for fresh produce for the domestic market. When working with perishable products, it is vital to understand how and where in the chain the ‘value added’ can be created. Other issues such as training farmers, quality assurance and marketing of value added products should also be taken into consideration during the value chain development process.
Therefore, Fresh Studio organized a travel workshop along horticulture value chains that were started in 2008 in Dalat and have over the years expanded to the Mekong Delta, and until now developed into a sustainable business supplying fresh produce for urban consumers in Vietnam. During the seven-day study tour, the delegation traveled to three main horticulture production areas in the south of Vietnam. The group was accompanied by agronomists, QA specialists, marketing consultants and the company’s directors who supported the delegates to achieve the study goal.
The delegates visited HCMC peri-urban farmer areas and the modern and traditional wholesale and retailers in HCMC.
In Dalat, the delegates visited various vegetable/fruit/flower farming systems (from low tech, mid-tech to high tech farms) and the Fresh Studio R&D farm. In addition, the study tour participants also went to several traditional and modern vegetable packinghouses.
In the Mekong delta, the tour participants visited the modern fruit and vegetable processing facility of The Fruit Republic (TFR) Company in Can Tho and a successful fruit export sourcing system in Vinh Long province.
After the study tour, the knowledge of vegetable production and supply chain of the delegates has been improved greatly, especially on the knowledge of Vietnam vegetable production that can be applied in other SEA countries. Apart from learning activities, the delegates also enjoyed Vietnamese food and culture.
Vietnams’ population consists of approximately 90 million people. Vegetables play an important role in their daily meals. Within the pilot-project Horti Dalat, Dutch companies are supporting the Vietnamese horti-sector with the development of modern greenhouses vegetables production.
The rapid growth of the Vietnamese population and pace and scope of retail development results in a high demand for quality products, food safety, stable supply and sustainable vegetable production.
In the Dutch article ‘Vietnamese groente gaat de kas in’, Flip van Koesveld and Huub Schepers of Applied Plant Reseach (Wageningen UR) discuss the vegetable production transition in Vietnam; from ‘outside’ to ‘inside’. For Vietnamese farmers it is smart choice to produce vegetable in greenhouses: “Shortly there are 3 reasons: less plant diseases, a reduced amount of fertilizer and higher yields. Greenhouses for vegetable production keep many issues ‘outside’ while the yield is increasing”.
Fresh Studio is, according to Van Koesveld, an important player in the chain. The company supports and creates breakthrough innovative interventions in the Asian food sector. “Fresh Studio plays a central role. We can give input how Vietnamese farmers should produce vegetables, but we do not speak their languages. For this, you need a strong local partner. One who can train farmers and who continues the project after finishing in 2016.”