When Lam Ngoc Tuan, director of Tuan Ngoc agricultural cooperative in Thu Duc City of Ho Chi Minh City, quit his nine-to-five at a bank, no one expected that he would successfully establish the largest hydroponic vegetable farm in the southern metropolis six years later.
Tuan’s experience working on land appraisal for the bank impressed upon him the struggle that farmers often face when it comes to unfavorable weather conditions.
In addition, with the area of land for farming in Ho Chi Minh City shrinking every year, the need for an agricultural model that is high-yield and capable of producing high-quality products is evident.
Those situations motivated Tuan to research farming and establish his own hydroponic vegetable farm, which can yield up to five times more produce than traditional growing methods.
“I was under great pressure from my family after I left my stable job and income to pursue farming, but I was so passionate that I ignored them all,” Tuan shared.
As hydroponic farming is a relatively new venture demanding substantial initial investments, Tuan committed his entire savings, secured additional funding from the bank, and successfully persuaded others to join.
So far, Tuan has invested over VND12 billion (US$488,600) in his business.
In 2017, the Tuan Ngoc agricultural cooperative was established with just over 1,000 square meters of hydroponic vegetable cultivation within greenhouse facilities.
In the following two years, the cooperative expanded to include seven members and increased its rented land area from over 7,000 square meters to 10,500 square meters by 2022, operating at five locations -- four in Ho Chi Minh City and one in south-central Ninh Thuan Province.
Tuan’s cooperative is considered the largest hydroponic vegetable greenhouse farm model in Ho Chi Minh City, according to Dinh Minh Hiep, director of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
To minimize costs, Tuan has mastered the production of his own vegetable nutrients.
Despite facing numerous challenges, Tuan Ngoc Cooperative has begun to see positive outcomes, providing employment for dozens of workers.
|Lettuce grown at Lam Ngoc Tuan’s hydroponic farm in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: T.N. / Tuoi Tre|
“We produce 11 different types of vegetables, including lettuce, cruciferous vegetables, amaranth, and more,” Tuan said.
“Our daily output varies depending on the time of year, ranging from 600 kilograms to a metric ton, resulting in a revenue of approximately VND20-25 million [$814-1,017],” he revealed.
“We currently distribute vegetables to four convenience store chains, supermarkets, and hundreds of regular customers within Ho Chi Minh City.”
Furthermore, the cooperative has effectively disseminated hydroponic crystal lettuce farming technology to regions with warmer climates, such as Ninh Thuan Province, even though the vegetable was traditionally grown in cooler conditions.
The cooperative received the ‘High-Quality Vietnamese Goods’ award and was recognized among the 63 exemplary cooperatives of 2023 by the Vietnam Farmers’ Union.
Tuan confessed that despite having been in business for six years, the cooperative has only recently begun to break even, primarily due to high initial investments and stable selling prices.
However, hopes are high now that the cooperative has established a distribution channel and made a name in the market.
While humbly acknowledging this is just the beginning of their success, Tuan is determined to persevere, recognizing that there will still be many challenges and estimating that it will take around seven to eight years to establish a strong brand.
“Only by being steadfast can we go a long way and gain success in the field of urban agriculture,” Tuan said.
Discussing his future plans, the man intends to broaden the cultivation area and diversify the product range to better cater to customer needs.
Tuan calls on the city for more favorable policies, including low-interest loans, permitting construction on agricultural land, and facilitating channels for product distribution, to encourage and support the growth of high-tech urban agriculture.
In response, Hiep from the city’s agriculture department said that those policies are already under consideration.