Private Companies Doing High-tech Agriculture

3/5/2014 12:00:00 AM

After 4 years of investment, Unifarm High-tech Agricultural Park (An Thai village, Phu Giao district, Binh Duong province) has grown many produces achieving Global GAP to export to strict markets such as Japan, Korea, etc.

Philippine expert is guiding Unifarm workers to pack bananas to export to Korea 

Just passing the rubber jungle, the first thing came to our eyes was ranks of greenhouses of Unifarm high-tech agricultural park shining under the sunlight. A green and straight banana field with bunches of bananas being covered tightly inside plastic bags appeared on the large field.

Doing agriculture with foreign experts

At noon, the water system started working. From the plastic pipes along every bed of banana, water from little holes along the pipes sprayed 4 sides up making the banana stalks and the ground around the roots wet. A worker told that the water system there was automatic, but each kind of tree had a separate kind of watering. Mush melons in the greenhouses had water and fertilizer given by dropping system from Israel, segment-fruit trees had water given by rain spraying system, and banana had water given by the watering system from the land up. “This is the watering technology from Taiwan” – the worker said.

According to Mr Pham Quoc Liem, Unifarm’s CEO, each kind of tree is not only installed the automatic watering and fertilizing systems, but also has its own top experts from top agricultural countries invited by Unifarm to implement and take care of all processes.

With the bananas exporting to Korea, for instance, the company invited 2 Philippine experts (one of top countries cultivating bananas in the world) to co-operate from the inception and take the role of training and transferring technology to Vietnamese workers.

On December 19th 2013, the first rank of banana was harvested to export to the Korea. The 2 Philippine experts were busy to go back and forth from the washing pool to the drying-and-packaging room to guide the workers to do correctly with the standards given.

Besides, the Korean customers were also checking some processes before packaging and taking into the cold containers to be on ship moving to the Korea.

At the 1-hectare greenhouse cultivating mush melon, the entire of greenhouse system, equipment and watering system were all imported from Israel and operated by an expert right from this country.

“This expert had more than 30 hectares in Israel cultivating vegetables exporting to the Europe so he has full of practical experiences. We invited him to ensure all stages to be done correctly with the processes from the inception. Therefore, the mush melon trees here can keep 3 fruits, instead of just 1 like other places but the weight and quality is still qualified.” Mr Liem said.

With the high-tech system as well as the control of the experts, the mush melon area achieved the Global GAP certificate. “We supply to the market about 200 tons of mush melon each year. In 2014, we will expand the mush melon area in the net houses more to meet the needs of the market.” Mr Liem said.

Exported technology from Japan and Korea

Before 2008, the Binh Duong provincial people’s committee intended to establish high-tech agricultural parks to make the nuclear to develop over other places with the goal of getting high productivity on little areas while such areas of land were tightened and tightened over time.

Among candidates registered, Unigroup (Unifarm’s mother company) was chosen as an investor of the high-tech agricultural park at An Thai village, Phu Giao district, Binh Duong province when this agricultural park was decided to establish by Binh Duong people’s committee in 2009. After receiving the certificate, Unifarm promptly imported equipments, invited foreign experts, and official came to operation in 2010.

With the scale of nearly 412 hectares and being divided into many function areas such as research area, production area, etc. Till now Unifarm has filled 36% of the whole area (about 140 hectares among 380 hectares of farm land). This year Unifarm will expand more, particularly the area for banana will be added 100 hectares more. Not uncovering the return of the company but Mr Liem said that each high-tech agricultural project there gave a very high productivity. The company is now developing some more kinds of tree such as orange, pomelo, mandarin orange, lemon, etc.

According to Mr Liem, beside the fresh produce supplying to the domestic and foreign markets, the company would establish a processing plant right in the park to increase the value of agricultural produce. When all models of production being completed and coming to success, the company would transfer the technique for farmers, and at the same time link with them to develop a material area outside.

In addition, we learned from this company that they were linking with foreign partners to invest and produce, for instance, co-operation with Korea to cultivate banana and export back to this market.

The company is also working with a Japanese partner to research some kinds of vegetable such as green peas, egg plants by Japanese seeds and technology to find out the suitable kinds of tree for investing and exporting back to Japanese market.

“Our plan is to be with Japanese partner to invest in a plant making cultivation seeds according to Japanese technology in Vietnam. Therefore, we will apply high technology in the entire series from seeds to production to processing in this park,” said Mr Liem.

About the output, Mr Liem said, the needs of consuming Vietnamese clean agricultural produce at the domestic market as well as the foreign market is very large. Banana supply, for example, is not meeting the needs. In Philippines, the country with the largest area of cultivation banana, the banana trees are in the sign of decline so the customers are finding the supply sources from other countries including Vietnam.




Help farmers launch new seeds

Da Lat is now having about 30 companies creating seeds by cultivating tissue, provides to the market 22 million of seeds per year. Setting a laboratory for seed multification and tissue cultivation is the way that farmers can save themselves instead of waiting for good seed sources from domestic researching institutes. Mr Truong Duc Phu, director of PH Biotech seed Company (ward 11, Da Lat) and the owner of the laboratory of cultivate samplings in the test tube which has the first or second biggest scale in Da Lat, told us that he spent money to travel to Netherlands and Asian countries to learn about seed produce. The produce after harvest, however, cannot be exported because of lack of copyright.

With experiences through tens of years in the field of high-tech agriculture, Siebe Van Wijk (Nethelands), director of Fresh Studio Company, opposes that seed is really a problem not only in Da Lat, the Government should have policies to attract prestigious biotech companies in the world to come to Vietnam to help Vietnamese farmers launch new seeds. “Nethelands started their high-tech agriculture with the same difficulties as Vietnam but we solved the problem right from the inception of seed process by many ways. Besides supporting seed companies, the Government was also giving many policies to help farmers launch biotech companies, helping them understand one another and co-operate to produce seed correctly with the requirement.” Mr Van Wijk talked to us.

Mr Nguyen Truc Bong Son, director of Lam Dong Encourage agricultural expansion Center, supposes that just about 20% of vegetable and flower seed in Da Lat has the seed copyrights which mainly gather in business block. Most of the original seeds that Vietnamese farmers hold were imported through unofficial channels so their seeds have no copy right to export. He supposed that Da Lat should have high-tech agricultural center that could gather experts from biotechnology to research more on vegetables and flowers to serve for not only Da Lat but also other places. This can solve the matters of seeds and technique for the industry of high-tech agriculture in Da Lat.



Technology drives agricultural production:

The potential for agricultural development in Vietnam is so large. If you want to succeed, however, Vietnamese farmers first have to change their minds. Doing agriculture nowadays does not only depend on the traditional experiences but also depends much on technology, science knowledge, the research of market and customer needs, etc. Following the last conditions leads the produce to meet the high requirements of strict consumption markets and prospect imported markets that are ready to pay high costs.

In reality if you don’t do this then others would and someday they could be doing better than you. That is also the global competitive principle that Vietnamese farmers should follow. I think that there should be more investments in education to make farmers’ knowledge better. Once they have knowledge and the aware of related things, they can be possible to access the market information, technology, listening, testing, etc so that they will be more skillful and more confident in their decisions.

Money just plays a part of doing high-tech agriculture, but agricultural production is the whole process. Technology is available everywhere and ever-changing. It’s just a kind of being backward if the farmers try to wait for it. I should add, among the group of Government, scientists, businesspersons, advisors, farmers in Israel, the advisors play a pretty big part. They are service advisory companies providing various services such as: what to cultivate, what to breed, who to sell, what market to sell, how to sell, etc. If they know the market needs or the produce prices is not convenient at the investment point of time, they will warn the farmers to change to another kind of agricultural produce that’s more appropriate and meets the needs of the market and prices better. Vietnam seems to lack this organization.

Implemented by Le Nam

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