Aspirations for an agricultural cycle of sustainability

14:00 | 30/05/2019
Circular economic models being applied in Vietnamese agriculture are increasingly popular, while also helping to ensure the sector develops in a sustainable manner. Phuong Hao reports.
aspirations for an agricultural cycle of sustainability
Some farms are maximising their potential via more modern planting methods, Photo: Shutterstock

In mid-May, Nestlé Vietnam received a certificate of merit from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for the company’s contribution to the Vietnamese coffee industry and to sustainable development.

Over the last 10 years, Nestlé Vietnam has closely co-operated with Vietnamese partners to strengthen the chain link, increase the value of the country’s coffee beans, and take Vietnam towards becoming the second-largest coffee producer in the world.

With a modern and advanced waste treatment process, and a transparent control process focusing on recycling, Nestlé Vietnam has been considered one of the leading companies in implementing the circular economy in Vietnam.

According to Ganesan Ampalavanar, general director of Nestlé Vietnam, six factories of the group in the country are designed to the standards for preventing pollution, reducing emissions, and saving water. “By last year, all the factories completed the goal of ensuring no waste from production is discharged into the environment,” Ampalavanar said.

Since 2014, Nestlé has collected sand flowing out from the boilers, which is formed due to coffee production. By the fourth quarter last year, more than two million tonnes of sand waste was collected to produce nearly five million unburned bricks which adhere to the national standards in construction. “They have been widely used in civil and industrial projects. We also presented 10,000 such unburned bricks to Nguyen Hue Primary School in Bien Hoa of the southern province of Dong Nai to build a canteen building for over 1,000 students,” he said.

Ampalavanar said this is one of the activities helping to achieve their environmental waste goal. Nestlé has also ­collected domestic and non-hazardous solid waste, then assigned contractors to treat and recover heat instead of landfill. “Non-hazardous sludge after being internally treated is used to produce fertiliser. Milk cans are used to make ecological roofing sheets,” he added.

The company has announced a plan towards 2025 of recycling and reusing 100 per cent of used packaging products.

In addition, Nestlé’s advanced farming techniques has helped minimise environmental impact by saving 40 per cent of irrigation water, and reducing 20 per cent of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

Natural cycles in farming

As a new small enterprise in Hanoi in developing sustainable agriculture, Thuy Thien Nhu JSC has been applying effective microorganism technology (EM technology). This Japanese technology helps to create people-friendly and environmentally-safe products that achieve synergistic effects by combining beneficial microorganisms which exist in nature, such as lactic acid bacteria, yeast, and phototrophic bacteria.

“EM activates local and native microorganisms that live in soil and water and maximises their natural power. EM enhances the diversity of effective microorganisms, and balances the microorganism community to make healthy soil, clean water, and no bad odours,” CEO Bui Bich Lien told VIR.

Thuy Thien Nhu manages both the ORFARM food distribution and manufacturing chain and EM GREEN Thuy Thien Nhu Farm.

Lien’s farm applies EM Technology in the processes of farming from food, drink, bedding, and antiseptic for animals. Animal beds are used to manufacture high-quality compost which has a soil that improves the growth of fruit and vegetables. With the circulation system, the farming close process not only protects the environment at the farm and its surrounding areas, but also enriches and bio-diversifies the soil.

Since 2013, the company has set up a chain of ORFARM showrooms in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to strictly control their product quality directly into the hands of consumers. For six years, they have managed and controlled the sustainable system to distribute from the farm direct to households, receiving prestigious feedback from Vietnamese consumers.

“It’s great that Thuy Thien Nhu Farm is not only environmental friendly but also friendly for animals and staff since there is no bad odour or flies,” said Toru Koshoji, deputy chairman of the Asia-Pacific Natural Agriculture Network. “Every pig house has sprayers that apply EM on the building. ­Vaccines are used only at the first stage of the lives of baby pigs. After this first vaccine, they do not use any antibiotics during the animals’ life. EM-fermented manure from pigs and chickens are reused to grow vegetables and fruits, along with aromatic herbs ­protecting them from harmful insects.”

Phu Quy Agricultural Farm JSC, a small company in the central province of Nghe An, specialises in fresh oranges and products derived from oranges. Here, plants are taken care of through an ecological method. Four key elements are taken into consideration involving nutrition balance in the soil and air, and ecological diversity.

“We aim to maintain ecological orange farms without chemicals which self-operate and self-regenerate energy,” said deputy director Nguyen Thi Le Na.

Diversifying the products

According to Na, her company may be able to plant different kinds of crops like soy, nuts, melons, corn, bumpkins, and watermelons between the orange beds depending on the seasons and the height of orange trees and their shade. Decisions are made based on careful study so that intercrops will be a part of the chain supporting the development of the orange trees.

“For example, passionflower planted around orange trees will help reduce drawing insects, and banana plants will provide potassium for oranges, while soy trees help increase nitrogen,” Na said.

Via the ecological method, grass in Na’s farms is cut to cover orange tree roots. “Sunlight and rain will gradually decay the grass and forming humus, containing nutrients to feed orange trees. Each species of grass will have different nutrient content, so the more grass species there are, the more humus, and better nutrition is created, helping orange trees develop,” Na said.

To minimise the waste at the farms, Na has decided to produce candied orange peel. “These oranges cannot answer the standards of fresh ones and are often sold at a very cheap price of about VND5,000 (25 US cents) per kilogramme, or even just thrown away,” she added. “One important thing that most people don’t know is that acid content in oranges directly go into the soil, creating soil degradation.”

Nothing is thrown away and all natural features are being made in a useful manner. This is the way people like Na and Lien are helping to create healthy farms using circular models which are sustainable for the green agriculture future that Vietnam is aspiring to.

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