New cool chain is a key to scaling up safe vegetables value chain in Son La

January 29th, 2021

Funded by the Innovation Partnership Grants, a project that enables low-cost cool chains for the transportation of vegetables was launched in Son La province this month.

New cool chain to increase supply of quality vegetables from Son La to urban markets” was kicked off on January 4, 2021 in Moc Chau, Son La province by AHR (Applied Horticultural Research), Fresh Studio and NOMAFSI (the Northern Mountainous Agriculture and Forestry Institute)

By applying Coolbot, an innovative low-cost controller technology, the project aims to enable delivery of good quality vegetables and lower rates of loss/shrinkage during storage and transportation to consumers in Hanoi.

Growing vegetables is an important source of employment and income for local people, especially women, in Moc Chau and Van Ho districts, in Son La province, Vietnam. It forms part of a vibrant agricultural industry that produces other specialties like dairy products, plums, strawberries, and bamboo shoots. According to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Son La, total vegetables production area is about 6,000 hectares (1,100 hectares in Moc Chau) Each hectare can provide 20-25 tons and there are about 40,000 hectares of land available for future expansion.

Changing consumer preferences have driven the growth of supermarket chains and convenience stores in Hanoi and other big cities, so agrfood products now have to be of consistent quality and available in reliable supply to meet the demands of corporate customers. Mountainous areas like Son La, with a high altitude climate allowing for cultivation of off-season vegetables, can fill a gap in the market.  Consumers in urban markets also believe that vegetables from this area taste better and are more nutritious.

Today, farmers are losing up to 30% of the produce during transportation as it arrives in poor condition, especially highly perishable crops such as lettuce, beans and tomatoes. Cooling this produce as soon as possible after harvest and storing it in cool temperature is the major factor in maintaining quality and reducing loss.

With a total funding of nearly AUD 300,000 from Aus4Innovation, this project will work with local farmers, the private sector and local government to build and support 10 packing houses with cool rooms, and five refrigerated trucks. This will ensure retailers and consumers in Hanoi get the quality vegetables they demand, and the vegetable industry in Son La can reach its full potential.

Speaking at the launch event, Ms Cao Hong Luyen from Fresh Studio stated that farmers are the first and most important beneficiary of the project. The team hopes to create more jobs and increase income for the local communities and have a positive social development impact in a sector where 45% of farmers are ethnic minorities, and 75% are women. As the vegetables sector in Son La grows, the team hopes it will become better functioning, more inclusive and more sustainable.