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

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

    Private Public Partnership: Successful agricultural projects show great opportunities for future investments

    The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) has held a conference on PPP (Public Private Partnership) investment in agriculture which shows its high interest in the investment mode. Vietnam is one of the 11 countries in the world which applies the PPP model in agricultural projects on a trial basis.

    Innovative public private partnerships are a key instrument to improve food security and agricultural sustainability in Vietnam. The model has attracted the participation of 15 trans-national groups, including Metro Cash & Carry, Unilever, Nestle, Syngenta and Fresh Studio.

    Fresh Studio has been involved in several PPP projects, amongst others to build up a fish production chain meeting international standards which supports the penetration of Vietnamese seafood products in retail chains.

    Setting up a vegetable and fish sourcing system
    The assignment began with the establishment of a sourcing system in Dalat (Central Highlands of Vietnam) …+ Read more

    Fresh Studio is also committed to developing business partnerships to improve the safety and quality of vegetables, while benefiting farmers. In 2013, Fresh Studio organized a conference, titled ‘Supplying the market of tomorrow’. This event took attendees on a one-day journey into the future of safe, healthy and high value food in Vietnam and offered a platform for (inter)national businesses to meet with key stakeholders from the public sector including Vietnamese government, foreign embassies, NGOs, academia, media and consumers.

    Conference: Supplying the Market of Tomorrow
    Read and download the presentations given by the Dutch Ambassador, Metro, BopInc and Fresh Studio …+ Read more

    The successful results of agriculture projects implemented under the mode of PPP show great opportunities for the participation of more foreign and domestic companies to realize the sustainable development of five industries: tea, coffee, vegetables, fisheries and commodities.



    Publication date: May 2014

    Export Coaching Program for food ingredient businesses

    Fresh Studio is requested by the Center for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI) to assist with the recruitment of Vietnamese food ingredient companies to participate in a 4 year Export Coaching Program (ECP) which focusses on the EU market.


    The ECP is developed for ambitious entrepreneurs in developing countries as Vietnam. The aim of the program is to promote and enhance the competitive position of value added food ingredient products for the export to EU food and beverage markets.

    In order to meet the legislations and market requirements of European countries participating companies are trained, coached and advised about important export aspects. This includes product development, packaging, quality management and marketing.

    Furthermore, the engaged companies have the opportunity to meet and build business relationships with potential clients at trade fairs and exhibitions in Europe.


    Many active companies in the Vietnamese food ingredients sector are eager to participate in the program. Fresh Studio implemented the following steps in order to recruit the most suitable companies for the program:

    • Performed desk research to find food ingredient businesses who meet the CBI selection criteria;
    • Pre-selected potential companies;
    • Organized information sessions about CBI ECP for potential companies and supported them to fill in CBI application forms;
    • Sent the list of the pre-selected companies to CBI for reviewing and short-listing;
    • Audited, in collaboration with CBI experts, the short-listed companies in order to obtain insights in companies’ current export strengthens and weaknesses;
    • Prepared, in co-operation with CBI expert, final audit reports with recommendations and sent them to CBI for final company selection.


    Fresh Studio continues to support the selection processes of food ingredient companies for the ECP.

    A recently signed agreement between VIETRADE and CBI emphasizes the likelihood that more Vietnamese business will contribute in the ECP.

    Development of dairy farm monitoring system

    For one of our clients, Fresh Studio developed a simple, cash-based farm monitoring system and conducted a trial with four dairy farmers in Cu Chi District, HCMC, Vietnam.


    In order to obtain better insights in farm economics and performance of individual dairy farmers, Fresh Studio developed a smallholder dairy farmer monitoring system. This will help farmers to improve their farm management.

    In addition, the monitoring system will help farmers to get easier access to loans. There is currently limited access to finance for dairy farmers in Vietnam which causes difficulties to smallholders who want to scale up their operations. To provide access to loans for farmers, the financial performance of farms should be quantified. In this way dairy farmers can, for example, show banks how much free cash flow they are generating to repay a loan.


    Fresh Studio developed a dairy farm monitoring system to quantify the actual cash that is generated with dairy farming in Vietnam. Furthermore, we give dairy farmers information on key performance indicators as average milk production per cow, costs per kg of milk produced and share of inputs on total costs.

    In order for dairy farmers to comply easily with the system, it focused on actual input. Farmers recorded their inputs in a simple booklet that distinguished different types of inputs.

    A trial with the dairy farm monitoring system is conducted with four dairy farmers in Cu Chi, HCMC. At the start of the trial the stock of all inputs was recorded. During the trial farmers registered their actual inputs as well as cash expenses in a booklet. Every two weeks (one period in the monitoring system) a Fresh Studio consultant visited the farmers to collect the booklets and at the end of the trial stock was recorded again.


    Fresh Studio completed the trial with a farm report for each farmer which included the revenue/outputs and all expenses/inputs and summarized the (financial) performance of the dairy farm. In addition a benchmark was made which showed the performance of an individual dairy farmer compared to the group.

    Private GAP implementation for large wholesaler

    Upon request of one of world’s largest wholesalers we developed a private standard on good agriculture practices (GAP) with a specific focus on food safety.

    The standard, guaranteeing full traceability from farm to fork, is tailored to two distinct fresh categories: vegetables and fish. Next a training program was designed and all actors along the production chain were trained in the implementation of the new standard. To date a team of Fresh Studio auditors audits the contracted farmers and suppliers annually. A random sampling program is being executed, continuously monitoring the correct standard implementation at farm level. Quality controllers check the incoming products daily at the client’s platforms (Hanoi, Dalat and Can Tho) for further distribution to all the stores in Vietnam.

    Working with a multitude of small scale farmers was one of the main challenges in realizing consistent volume and quality supply. The close collaboration between agronomists and QA staff has proven vital in the realization of the QA program. This program is unique in Vietnam and sets our client aside from competition in terms of food safety.

    A significant side effect of the standard implementation is that a whole village started to follow the example of the GAP farmers in keeping their fields and surroundings free of litter and waste.

    Marketing and branding for avocado sector development

    Fresh Studio was approached to design and manage a large scale not-for-profit project to develop an avocado market in Dak Lak province.

    The DAKADO project used a value-chain approach where farmers, collectors and traders were linked to buyers and consumers in order to establish a sustainable business network for the marketing of a high quality avocado brand. For more info, see:

    The DAKADO project entailed the Fresh Studio Marketing Team being responsible for the stimulation of domestic demand for avocado through a consumer awareness campaign, first to introduce, and then to develop, this high quality avocado brand. The project included an extensive consumer campaign in retail outlets of Saigon Coop Mart, Metro Cash & Carry and FiviMart in HCMC and Hanoi, in 2007 and 2008.

    By specifically marketing the quality DAKADO brand, by allowing price premiums of more than 40 per cent to cover increased production costs, and by realizing higher profit margins for all agents involved (from retail to farmer), the project succeeded in creating the first traceable fruit in Vietnam.

    That consumers were willing to pay higher prices for premium fruits was an eye-opener for modern retail in Vietnam. Prior to this, it has always been assumed that Vietnamese consumers cared more about price than about quality when purchasing fruit.

    Growth strategy consultation and brand portfolio management

    Our client faced significant changes in global trade with the entrance of multiple new players tightening the playing field. This resulted in higher quality product requirements at lower margins with more complex and fragmentary distribution structures.

    In their approach to us, our client requested assistance in revitalizing and optimizing their sales and marketing strategy.

    By using a step-by-step approach, closely collaborating with client teams in sales, marketing, production and finance, we guided the client in the development of a business strategy for future growth.

    The assignment resulted in a focused 5 year strategy, with clear objectives for portfolio and brand management.

    Consumers at the starting point for new product development

    Our client required a better understanding of the current market for (safe) vegetables and identification of opportunities for the future development of a new safe vegetable chain.

    Fresh Studio was hired to design and conduct the consumer and market research, and to translate the insights into concrete strategy recommendations.

    In realizing a demand-driven safe vegetable supply chain, our client wanted to kick-off their project with market and consumer research to provide them the insight for making strategic project choices.

    Our aims included:

    • Understanding the current size and structure of the (safe) vegetable market
    • Understanding consumer behavior, motives perceptions and preferences regarding the consumption of (safe) vegetables