Second Masterclass Saline Agriculture Vietnam | 26 – 28 October 2022

As a project partner Fresh Studio was pleased to be one of the trainers during the second Masterclass Saline Agriculture funded by ADB.

The training was organized in Ben Tre, where increasing salinity levels have a major impact on the local agricultural sector. Besides Ben Tre increasing salinity levels are a major issue along the coastal areas of the Mekong Delta. It is an important topic to address as it impacts millions of people depending on their livelihood production agricultural products in the region affected by the intrusion of salt water.

During the Masterclass Saline Agriculture, various innovative solutions to prevent and manage salt intrusion and production technologies enabling agriculture production under saline conditions were discussed.

With its extensive experience in Vietnam and horticulture production systems Fresh Studio trained the participants in production systems for tropical fruits and vegetables growing out of the soil and the economics to consider making an investment in such production system.

A third and final masterclass is planned for the end of November 2022.

The project partners of the project: Masterclass Saline Agriculture are:

  • Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP)
  • Mekong Delta Development Research Institute / Can Tho University (MDI/CTU)
  • Wageningen University
  • Nong Lam University
  • Southern Fruit Research Institute (SOFRI)
  • Southern Institute for Water Resources Research
  • Wageningen University & Research
  • The Salt Doctors
  • Witteveen+Bos
  • Eijkelkamp Soil & Water
  • Fresh Studio
  • Eurofins
  • SkillEd
  • Fresh Studio

Value chain management and market linkages for fruits and aquaculture in Mekong Delta training

On 9 and 10 September 2022 Fresh Studio under the lead of our value chain development expert Mr. Siebe van Wijk organized the 2nd value chain management and market linkage training as part of the Nuffic OKP project: ‘Towards a climate resilient nursery sector and value chains in the Mekong Delta through capacity building in the educational and governmental sectors’.

During the training the trainee learned how to do a value chain analysis and which tools they can use to gather the insights of a current chain to be able to develop a value chain.

The highly participatory approach of the training resulted that all trainees were actively involved in the various training sessions. The knowledge and methods trained during the classroom sessions were applied by the trainees during their assignments and field work, including on site interviews with actors active within a water spinach and mustard chain.  The training activities accumulated in 2 groups presenting their ideas and approaches required to develop a water spinach and mustard value chain by the end of the training.

The OKP project is a Dutch-Vietnamese knowledge partnership project to promote the development of a climate-resilient nursery sector & value chains in An Giang, Dong Thap, Can Tho, Soc Trang, Tien Giang and Vinh Long, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands and managed by NUFFIC.

This project introduces scalable water technology pilots for the aquaculture and horticulture sectors to develop climate-smart value chains. The project international partners including Aeres University, Has University, Fresh Studio Innovations Asia and Nong Lam University work with local governments and educational institutions to enhance capacity so that adaptations to cope with transformation in the Mekong Delta can be accelerated at the local level.

OKP Project resumes training activities in Vietnam

The OKP project is a Dutch-Vietnamese knowledge partnership project to promote the development of a climate-resilient nursery sector & value chains in An Giang, Dong Thap, Can Tho, Soc Trang, Tien Giang and Vinh Long, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands and managed by NUFFIC.

This project introduces scalable water technology pilots for the aquaculture and horticulture sectors to develop climate-smart value chains. The project international partners including Aeres University, Has University, Fresh Studio Innovations Asia and Nong Lam University work with local governments and educational institutions to enhance capacity so that adaptations to cope with transformation in the Mekong Delta can be accelerated at the local level.

After a successful two-day kick-off workshop and first training sessions in April 2021, unfortunately the training activities were limited to online sessions due to  Covid-19 restrictions. Although in-person meetings were restricted, Fresh Studio set up its fish nursery with an advanced water filtration system (RAS) from Alpha Aqua—an improvement over previous methods that greatly increased fingerling efficiency and water usage.

Fingerling R&D nursery established by Fresh Studio
Fingerling R&D nursery established by Fresh Studio

At the Nong Lam University, irrigation systems were installed. These systems enabled the university to train its students in applied research related to irrigation strategies and water use efficiency.

Irrigation system installed at Nong Lam University
Irrigation system installed at Nong Lam University

As the Covid-19 situation has eased the project partners are pleased that in-person training and other project activities can take place again in Vietnam. During the last 2 weeks, the groups focused on aquaculture and crops resumed training activities related to didactics and technologies related to climate-smart agriculture. The training was provided by experts from Aeres and HAS, focusing on didactics in combination with the local teams of Nong Lam University and Fresh Studio, focusing on technologies.

Aquaculture training week

The project resumed training activities were met with enthusiasm by the trainees, especially the training exercises in which the trainees were actively involved themselves. 

In the coming period the project will continue to roll out the planned project activities starting with another training session on irrigation in June and the 2nd value chain development training in September.

Toward a climate resilient nursery sector and value chain in the Mekong Delta through the capacity Building in educational and government sector

We are uplifted with the success of the two-day kick off workshop for the Orange Knowledge Program project “Toward a climate resilient nursery sector and value chain in the Mekong Delta through the capacity Building in educational and government sector” campaign by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Fresh Studio, Aeres University, Has University and Nong Lam University are collaborated to promote the development of a climate resilient nursery sector & value chains in the Mekong Delta.

Fifty (50) professors, lecturers, extentionists and researchers from colleges, TVETs, DARDS, research institutes from Dong Thap, An Giang, Can Tho, HCM, Long An, Tien Giang, Soc Trang participate in this workshop and will continue a collective learning journey until 2022 and beyond!

Fresh studio offers seafood container inspection service to an airline company

There are many different types of seafood and just as many supply chains. In this context, meeting product specifications for each market end can be a real headache for customers. As part of our inspection service offer, we have been responsible for assuring the integrity of the seafood purchased by a renowned airline for more than 4 years. The seafood we inspect is produced in the heart of the Mekong Delta and served to thousands of passengers every year across the world.

One of our best customers is a leading international airline. As part of the high standard of its services, their catering department works in close collaboration with suppliers to offer a product that meets the particular specifications required for air travel in order to ensure that it provides an enjoyable moment to every passenger.

Over the past few years, Pangasius has been chosen as a main ingredient of their menu. Sourced from the heart of the Mekong Delta, many actors take part in producing and delivering the end-product served on-board. At Fresh Studio, we are one of the final links in this supply chain, making sure the strict product specifications of our client are met.

Based on the shipment forecast provided by the customer, our team of experienced inspectors arrange each inspection directly at the factory. Because the stakes are high, we work in close collaboration with our customer to make sure procedures are clear, not allowing any room for interpretation. In addition, random sampling together with clear AQL (Acceptance Quality Limits) is applied for all inspection criteria fixed by our client.

Like most third-party inspectors, we search for critical defects that may deceive the consumer or cause the whole shipment to be rejected at the border. These include fraudulent quantity and dimensions, overglazing, microbiological hazards and faulty packaging information.

More than just providing inspection service, we also support our client to deliver a menu comprised of quality food products that can bring enjoyment to its customers. For this, we conduct simple but essential sensory testing to provide feedback about the texture, smell, appearance and taste of the product.

Finally, all results of the inspections we conduct are compiled in an official report accompanied with our recommendations. Fresh Studio’s role means that our customer can rest assured that the product is in line with its specifications and that they can work safely with the supplier for the purchase. We are proud to support our client in developing its business and delivering better food to its customers every year.

Note: From our base in the Mekong Delta, we inspect at any seafood buyer. We do not take commission from local producers, and can assure clients that product specifications are met and that the vast expense of defective shipments can be avoided. Contact us for more information.

Training for Pangasius and Tilapia farmers in Vinh Long and Dong Thap provinces

Aquaculture is a vital component of the social and economic tissue for many provinces in the Mekong Delta. In the riverine provinces of Vinh Long and Dong Thap, where nearly half of the national Pangasius production takes place, sustainable expansion of aquaculture is constrained by several factors. Among those, the lack of appropriate extension approaches, limited technological know-how, and variable input quality are very often stressed by local farmers.

Through the PAP “Powering Aquaculture Progress” project launched in 2013, De Heus together with its implementing partners Fresh Studio, Can Tho University and Wageningen University have envisioned the development a state-of-the-art R&D facility serving as a nexus in the Mekong Delta where innovations could be developed, tested and adapted to local conditions in collaboration with local farmers.

After 4 years of development, 2017 marked a new milestone with the first training sessions held at the facility.

Sessions featured stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds, including more than 100 Pangasius and Tilapia farmers, members of the De Heus’ Research and Sales team, local and international industry experts, and academics from Can Tho University.

Because project partners knew that farmers often find training programs irrelevant to the practicalities of their work, Fresh Studio conducted a field survey of farm practices among nearly 50 farms throughout the rainy season to identify knowledge gaps and understand the difficulties experienced during production.

The results from this survey helped select relevant topics and support trainers prepare adapted materials and methodologies.

Using the research conducted in preparation for the program, sessions led by Dr. Mahmoud Haidar and Mr. Nguyen Van Khanh from the De Heus technical team shed light upon the power of data application, and its potential value added on farm efficiency.

Fresh Studio team interviewing a Tilapia grow out farmer during the survey

Disease management, the topic most often requested by the farmers, was led by the renowned Dr. Tu Thanh Dung from Can Tho University. Dr. Dung emphasized the need for more thorough diagnostic procedures to treat the root causes of a disease. She also discouraged use of chemicals and pharmaceuticals as a primary treatment, describing the importance of preventive measures.

Before the workshop sessions, attendees were given to a tour of De Heus’ state-of- the-art R&D facility. This allowed the R&D team to demonstrate the systems and explain how their research could be applied in practice. Fresh studio was responsible for preparing the sessions and facilitating the workshops and Q&A sessions.

Demonstrating technologies applied during the tour of the R&D facility

Farmers were actively involved in the training by raising many questions during presentations and hour-long exchange sessions. The open speaking platform and small number of attendees at each session (15-25 individuals) gave farmers the opportunity to discuss a wide range of topics. These included vaccination, antibiotic resistance, seed selection, water quality management, and even emerging diseases.

For our partner De Heus, the opening of the R&D farm and the development of its own internal training program are key steps toward proposing services that should help address a wider range of issues facing producers in the region. Through these efforts, De Heus is beginning to establish itself as a major player in the aquafeed market and contributor to the sustainable development of fish farming in Vietnam.

Miss Tu Thanh Dung talking about disease prevention

Shrimp Tails, the first and only shrimp industry magazine

A complex and varied shrimp industry

2017 was a productive year for shrimp in most of the main countries of origin. Despite a strong performance, fundamental constraints continue to threaten the shrimp sector, which revolve around the tangle of actors in the supply chain, and questionable practices at different steps of production.

“The aquaculture sector is far from being homogeneous”, explained Daniel Knoop in 2016, international aquaculture program manager at Solidaridad and co-founder of STIP. “There are a lot of products on the market and an equal amount of distribution channels. It is alsothe world’s fastest growing food industry. New initiatives and businesses are springing up everywhere. However, this type of rapid growth tends to come at the expense of sustainability.”

Pressure to address these issues is growing, particularly as regulators in Europe and the U.S. are tightening regulations on food safety and traceability of imported products. Meeting such expectations is however difficult, as the vulnerability of shrimp to bacterial and viral diseases destabilize the consistency of supply, and the dominance of small-scale farming among the multitude of developing countries frustrates efforts to implement quality standards.

2017 has also seen historical changes in the global shrimp trade order. Although shrimp has traditionally gone for export, domestic consumption is increasing as producing countries are becoming better-off. It is also becoming more accessible as the value of their shrimp in real terms is dropping. For instance, while China would have exported large amounts of its own shrimp production few years ago, the country became last year a net importer. With the magnitude of its own population China is the new determinant of the global shrimp market.

Knowledge sharing via Shrimp Tails

In this context, buyers urgently needed greater transparency in order to identify the opportunities and risks of procurement in specific countries, acquire knowledge on traceability, gain insight into problems affecting their production chains and find suppliers capable of providing sustainable products.

Yet despite the very globalized state of the shrimp sector, no tool was capable of offering a sufficient information set.

On the basis of this observation The Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal initiated the idea of Shrimp Tails, the only magazine compiling news and analysis of the shrimp sector worldwide.

“In each edition of Shrimptails, we will give you a look at the recent trends and near-future projections of the shrimp industry in Bangladesh, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Peru, and Vietnam. Each edition will also give you market trends and insights of European countries and regions. These standardized country updates are complemented with in-depth background stories and interviews to add additional context to the wealth of information provided” said Willem van der Pijl, director at STIP.

Partners in all countries of origin participated in this unique assignment, gathering and compiling intelligence for the STIP team based in The Netherlands. Fresh Studio, as the local STIP partner, took care of Vietnam’s section. For this job our passionate aquaculture team worked closely with farmers, processors, diagnosticians, feed suppliers, and government officials, to provide a realistic diagnosis of what is happening in reality on the ground.

Read the first edition of Shrimp Tails Magazine for more details about our Vietnam’s shrimp sector review, and don’t miss the second edition in June!


Our team talking about production with a White Leg shrimp farmer in Tra Vinh province
STIP’s team proof reading Shrimp Tails before publishing
The Shrimp Tails magazine finalized

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.

Grand opening of the Powering Aquaculture Progress Research and Innovation centre

Thursday May 4th marked the grand opening of the Powering Aquaculture Progress (PAP) R&D facility in Vinh Long, Vietnam.

More than 300 guests attended the event, including representatives from lead partner De Heus, internationally renowned aquaculture companies, leading aquaculture experts from all over the world, government, and farmers from across the Mekong Delta. With an indoor Recirculating Aquaculture System consisting of 111 tanks and 25 outdoor ponds varying between 100 – 2000m2 in surface area, its facilities rival the top aquaculture research centres in Asia.

Mr. Gabor Fluit, Business Group Director of De Heus Asia, described the vision of the research facility not only as a centre for De Heus feed development, but as a “centre for collaboration between public and private stakeholders in the industry”. The opening demonstrated the commitment of De Heus to become a lead player in Asia’s rapidly developing aquaculture sector.

Fresh Studio has been a key partner since project inception, co-developing the centre’s vision and supporting the design and construction phase. Fresh Studio staff is currently responsible for farm management, executing experiments, and carrying out dissemination objectives.

The first of these dissemination objectives is the organisation and facilitation of a training program designed for Tilapia and Pangasius farmers supported by De Heus. The training is not purely a class-room exercise on farming techniques, but provides a platform for farmers to share best practices and implement field trials together with farmers.

In the long term, the aquaculture R&D facility should become a hub for development of concrete solutions from feeding practices to farm management. Together with the high-quality feed developed by De Heus, these locally adapted solutions should help address a wider range of issues facing producers in the region.

This state-of-the-art facility should become the nexus where innovations developed can be tested and adapted to local conditions. By bringing together industry and academia, De Heus and its implementing partner Fresh Studio, Can Tho and Wageningen University hope to provide innovative solutions to sector-defined problems, and support the growth, sustainability and profitability of aquaculture in Vietnam.

De Heus and Fresh Studio open Aquaculture R&D farm in Vietnam in Spring 2017

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.