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​Saigonese turn to homegrown veggies for meals, Tet gifts

Monday, January 01, 2018, 18:26 GMT+7
​Saigonese turn to homegrown veggies for meals, Tet gifts
The verdant clean veggie garden grown aeroponically on a rooftop owned by Tran Van Thao, residing in Binh Tan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Spooked by unsafe greens sold at markets and supermarkets, more Saigonese are now growing their own vegetables at home for meals and giving as Tet presents.

As tainted veggies posing serious health hazards to consumers are rife on the local market, including those imported from China, a rising number of residents in the southern metropolis have removed vegetables available there from their daily menus. 

They come up with a more cost-effective, fail-safe approach: growing their own veggies or getting agricultural specialists to tend to them in their rented areas or in their own gardens or terraces.

The practice also serves as an eco-friendly, rewarding pastime, provides opportunities for family get-togethers and helps growers as well as their families, particularly children, better appreciate the fruits of their labor.

More companies have thus begun to offer ‘package’ services, supplying their clients with high quality saplings, as well as counseling and training in applying various affordable cultivation technologies such as aeroponics, or a process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil or an aggregate medium.

After a night rain, the veggie beds on the rooftop of a house in Binh Tan District owned by Bui Thi Thuong look as verdant as those grown on silt-laden soil.

She began using her entire rooftop space to cultivate over 20 varieties of vegetable and set up a frame of perennial climbing squash two years ago.

Thuong revealed she started germinating seedlings of net melons, cauliflowers, and cabbages two months ago, in time for this Tet harvest.

This year’s Tet (Lunar New Year) will begin on February 16 and linger for one week or so.

Her yield last year was big enough to sustain her family’s meals while also providing gifts for her relatives and friends for the festive occasion.

Short of time to tend to vegetables, Tran Van Thao, director of a construction company, took to growing his greens on vertical aeroponic towers, which would allow him access to hygienically ensured, nourishing produce.

In his home in Binh Tri Dong B Ward, Binh Tan District, Thao has turned his 50m² rooftop into a green space with a fish pond and five vertical aeroponic towers watered by an automatically operated irrigation system.

After two months, all his five towers have begun yielding verdant lettuce and morning glory.

He divulged that he had sowed his second batch of morning glory in time for Tet consumption.

Similarly, despite living a stone’s throw from An Dong Market, District 5, one of the city’s major conventional markets, Chan Duc and his family have put veggies grown aeroponically in 1,600 holes on his rooftop on their daily menu.

The entire system cost over VND20 million (US$879) and the automatically operated watering towers require around 9m² space.  

“We can rest absolutely assured about our access to hygienically guaranteed vegetables,” Duc noted.

Bui Thi Thuong, a resident in Binh Tan District, Ho Chi Minh City, tends to her clean veggies and has germinated a wide variety of seedlings for this Tet harvest. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Bui Thi Thuong, a resident in Binh Tan District, Ho Chi Minh City, tends to her clean veggies and has germinated a wide variety of seedlings for this Tet harvest. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Thriving business

More growers have also adopted hydroponics, a method of growing plants without soil, using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent; or aquaponics, which refers to any system that combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics in a symbiotic environment.

Over recent years, companies specializing in gardening tools and techniques have mushroomed and offered various packages at different prices.

Realizing the benefits he had reaped by growing his own veggies, Truong Binh Son has established a firm which offers vegetable-growing services.

Towers manufactured at his company fetch VND1.5-2 million ($66-88) apiece.

Many families have opted for the aeroponic model for its limited space required, automatically operated watering system and diversity of greens on each tower, Son explained.

Apart from vegetables, Son’s company is also germinating breeds of flowers on vertical aeroponic towers to cater to booming Tet demand.

Likewise, Pham Thanh Loc, director of a hi-tech agricultural service company based in Cu Chi District, supplies a nine-tube aeroponic system with 400 holes, which takes up a floor area of a mere 1.5m², for VND6.5 million ($286).   

His products have been in good demand and fervently embraced by consumers across the country.

As the service is thriving, his staff have their hands full catering to a soaring demand as Tet is two months away.

According to Vo Thi Thu Ha, who runs a company specializing in hydroponic veggie-growing services in Ho Chi Minh City, families need only a 2m² space on their terrace or balcony to set up a 100-pot veggie garden.

Her systems are priced at VND3.6 million ($158) to VND8 million ($351) apiece.

Ha’s company also offers packages including saplings, tending, nutrition and harvesting at clients’ homes.

“We normally germinate 10,000 saplings. The number triples to cater to Tet demand, but we still run out of stock,” she said.

Many businesses sell aquaponic models installed on terraces for VND8 ($351) million to VND25 million ($1,099).

Le Phuong Vy, representative of a local hydroponic veggie-growing business, disclosed there were only a few firms offering home growing services five years ago with a handful of clients each month.

His current number of rivals has surged to dozens, with sales also rising dramatically.

According to statistics released by five major businesses in Ho Chi Minh City, each installs 20-30 aeroponic and hydroponic systems at local households monthly.

Around 70 percent of these households continue to use the companies’ accompanying services including hydroponic nutrition, seeds and seedlings.

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