Study Tour for HAS Den Bosch students

Fresh Studio had the pleasure to organize a study tour for International Food & Agribusiness students from the HAS University of Applied Sciences Den Bosch of the Netherlands in April 2018. In addition to studying the agriculture sector in Vietnam, the students had also the opportunity to explore Vietnamese history and culture. 

The study tour started in Da Lat, in the central highlands of Vietnam. This area is a major horticulture production center for vegetables and flowers. Due to the mild climate, animal husbandry is also an important sector in this area. During the first 2 days, visits were made to a plant nursery, a modern greenhouse vegetable producer, a local dairy and pig farm, local vegetable farmers, the Fresh Studio R&D farm, a professional vegetable trader and the local wholesale market. The visits allowed students to gain insight into the organization of agriculture production and trade in one of the major horticulture regions of Vietnam.

After the cool central highlands, the program continued in the Mekong Delta starting at the Cu Chi tunnels followed by a visit to the Cu Chi Hightech Agricultural park. Combining study and tourism, the tour introduced the students to an important historical area where they could see an example of Vietnamese ingenuity from the war. Later they saw how innovation has been applied to the aquaculture and fruit sectors, two sectors where Vietnam is a major exporter. Visits to fish and fruit farms were integral to the program. Students also could see how these products are handled further up the supply chain through visits to a professional fruit exporter and Binh Dien whole sale market. During the last day SOFRI (Southern Horticulture Research Institute), Vinacas (Vietnamese cashew nut association) and the Dutch consulate in HCMC were visited before the program was completed with a visit to Nong Lam University where Dr. Võ Thái Dân (Dean of the Faculty of Agronomy) was kind enough to present how agriculture education is organised in Vietnam.

After covering a wide range of agricultural subsectors, different actors in each supply chain, and exchanging information on the roles of governments and educational institutions in agriculture, the students wrapped up their studies in Vietnam. Fresh Studio thanks the students and teachers from the HAS Den Bosch for their enthusiastic participation as well as all of the hosts and facilitators who shared their knowledge and time with the participants.

Reputation risk for clean and safe vegetables from Dalat

Dalat is an important region of high-quality vegetable production in Vietnam. The adaption of standardized methods and modern cultivation technologies by farmers in Dalat has led to the successful growth of clean and safe tomatoes, potatoes, and cabbages which are larger than the average size of vegetables. But is bigger always better?

Despite the successful growth of clean and safe vegetables, farmers and traders in Dalat encounter difficulties finding buyers for their production. Most Vietnamese consumers associate unusual large fruit and vegetables with products from China. Consumers are unable to distinguish high-quality vegetables from Dalat over Chinese vegetables, which lead to falsely accusing distributors of selling Chinese products.

This misconception of Vietnamese consumers is caused by the fact that a wide variety of Chinese produce (e.g. carrots, cabbage, potato, garlic, and ginger) is available in larger sizes compared to local produce and their quality and safety is often front-page news.

The suspiciousness of consumers creates a paradox for fresh food production form Dalat; the oversized products, produced by means of standardized methods and modern technology, are sold at lower prices than those of lower quality.

According to experts, the solution to this paradox is that Dalat high-tech produce growers should join forces to introduce these ‘giant’ products to consumers countrywide with the results that consumers will no longer mistake them for Chinese fruits and vegetables. “Growers should frequently launch programs to promote their products. It’s a pity that large Dutch-beef tomatoes are mistaken for Chinese tomatoes,” advised our representative of Fresh Studio in Dalat, adding that this proves that the promoting channels for Dalat produce should further improve.

This advice was supported by agriculture expert Le Huu Phan, who urged Dalat farmers to take immediate action to educate consumers across the country about their high-quality produce. “This should be done soon to prevent the reputation of Dalat vegetables from being damaged”.

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Setting up a vegetable and fish sourcing system

Since 2007, Fresh Studio has been contracted by a multinational wholesaler to manage and develop their vegetable and fish sourcing systems, with the aim to improve product quality and safety standards.

The assignment began with the establishment of a sourcing system in Dalat (Central Highlands of Vietnam). A certified sourcing system with over 150 contracted farmers was drawn up, and a new state-of-the-art HACCP certified pack house was designed and constructed. This system has been running very successfully for over 5 years, and the volumes produced, along with the number of farmers involved, are growing steadily. Every day the Fresh Studio sourcing team is handling over 150 different SKUs, preparing them for nationwide distribution to our client stores.

Inspired by the success of this project, our client asked us to develop a similar system for vegetables in the North of Vietnam, and for fish in Southern Vietnam.

Our aims are:

  • To develop year round supply of guaranteed high quality and safe vegetables from North Vietnam, Fresh Studio is working with 100 smallholder vegetable farmers in the lowlands of the Red River Delta, as well as the poorer and more remote farmers located in the mountains in the North. Using the climatic advantage of the cooler mountains in North Vietnam, a regional solution is being developed to supplement the vegetable supply from the Red River Delta during the summer period, thus creating the possibility for year round supply of guaranteed high quality and safe vegetables from North Vietnam.
  • Almost all investments and professionalization in the aquaculture sector of Vietnam have just focussed on pangasius and shrimp, which are the main seafood export products. But as our client targets the 88 million domestic consumers, nobody till date had developed a professional fresh fish sourcing and processing system targeting the 80 fish species which the Vietnamese love to eat. Within two years time Fresh Studio assisted its client to setup and manage the first fresh fish processing facility and developed a sourcing system which now every day sources fresh fish from over 100 well trained and certified fish farmers and 20 preferred marine and fresh water certified fish collectors.

METRO Dalat Fruit and Vegetable Distribution Centre HACCP certified

DALAT – The METRO DC for fruits and vegetables in Dalat officially received a HACCP certificate for the “Pre-processing and packing of fruits and vegetables”, from Bureau Veritas.

METRO Cash & Carry is one of the few companies in Vietnam which seriously invests into the development of fruit and vegetable value chains. The HACCP certification was one activity in a large investment program jointly managed by Metro Cash & Carry the Netherlands, METRO Cash & Carry Vietnam and the Dutch PSOM program.

As METRO’s service provider, Fresh Studio Innovations Asia Limited assisted in training and preparing the METRO team for the HACCP certification. We congratulate the whole team in achieving this milestone.Also interesting to read:

Official opening of new Fresh Studio R&D farm in Dalat

DALAT – During Fresh Studio’s own company team event, the new 1.5 hectare vegetable R&D farm was opened.

Situated centrally in an important smallholder vegetable cultivation area of Dalat, Fresh Studio launched one of the few privately owned vegetable R&D farms of Vietnam. The farm features a variety of techniques including levels of irrigation, and open field and protected cultivation methods to test the agronomic and financial performance of a wide range of vegetable varieties.

Fresh Studio’s professional team of agronomists regularly conduct tightly monitored experiments, collecting data for analysis. These experiments are undertaken for clients ranging from seed, fertilizer and plant protection companies. The R&D farm also plays an important role in METRO’s farmer extension program for which Fresh Studio is contracted.

Alex van Andel: Market research on seed sector of Dalat, Vietnam

DALAT – As part of the MSc Management, Economics and Consumer Studies at Wageningen University, I conducted an internship at Fresh Studio in Dalat, Vietnam. 

My assignment for this internship was to conduct a market research on the seed sector of Lam Dong Province, the province where Dalat is located.

The area of Dalat is well known for growing a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, thanks to the altitude and climate. As part of a project to introduce new vegetable varieties in Vietnam for one of Fresh Studio’s clients, I conducted a survey on the nursery sector in Lam Dong. Nurseries are greenhouses where seeds are grown into seedlings after which the seedlings are sold and transported to farmers.

My internship was a nice combination of field and office work. I conducted a survey and follow-up in-depth interviews with the owners of the nurseries and combined the insights into a final report on the seed/nursery sector of Lam Dong Province and the potential for seed sales per vegetable type for one of Fresh Studio’s clients.

About Fresh Studio
Fresh Studio is a young and developing company with passionate, professional, and committed people. I had the opportunity to not only learn from my own project, but also from the projects on which my colleagues were working. Activities ranged from the sourcing of vegetables for a large modern retailer, R&D for agriculture input providers and marketing of avocados in the traditional and modern retail outlets of Vietnam. The open and positive working atmosphere at Fresh Studio made me feel ‘at home’ very quickly.

Choice for Fresh Studio
Multinational companies always appealed to me and so it was an atypical choice for me to undertake my internship within a relatively small company as Fresh Studio. However, I have not regretted this choice, as Fresh Studio is a professional and well-organized company which provided a great learning environment.

Before my departure to Vietnam, I arranged the visa, flight ticket and required vaccinations. Next to providing work-related facilities, Fresh Studio arranged my accommodation and covered my expenses.

Looking back
My four month period in Vietnam enriched my life. I experienced the Fresh Studio way of doing business, worked in a professional organization, in a sector which appeals to me very much, in a country that is not only beautiful, but is also economically booming.

Moreover, being part of the Fresh Studio ‘family’, experiencing the Vietnamese culture and traveling in Vietnam and Cambodia after my internship made it an experience I will never forget.Also interesting to read: