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Hi-tech and garden fresh
March 18, 2019 News Hi-Tech IoT


City dwellers are increasingly looking to purchase “clean” vegetables as food safety has become something an obsession lately, but the area available in urban areas for growing such vegetables is limited.

The Hachi hi-tech agricultural startup got underway in 2016 as an attempt to resolve this dilemma. “We build hi-tech agricultural farms, assist existing farms, and also help people in urban areas grow vegetables at home, creating profit for our customers as well as providing clean food to the community,” Mr. Dang Xuan Truong, CEO of Hachi, told VET.

Growing with smartphones

Aiming for smart agricultural development, Hachi applies Internet of Things (IoT) technology to build high-tech farms, with its typical product being an IoT control system for smart hydroponic growing.

Hydroponics is a technique for growing plants without soil, which are planted directly into a nutrient environment or substrate. This method provides nutrition for plants, ensures sufficient light, CO2 for photosynthesis, and O2 for respiration, so that plants can grow in a healthy manner. Growers need only replenish the water twice a week and add new vegetable seeds after the harvest.

Users buying Hachi’s equipment download the app and create an account, after which they are connected to the Hachi controller and a ready for start growing. To allow users to control the device from anywhere, Hachi uses a wi-fi chip attached to the device, so it can send data to the server.

Hachi’s system automatically monitors environmental conditions, such as temperature, humidity, and light, through apps on smartphones and automatically downloads data on each type of vegetable on its server to activate its care mode. When parameters change, the server sends a direction on irrigation or additional lighting for the system to perform at its best. The user’s smartphone will show in detail the parameters of environmental conditions and logs changes over time.

Unlike growing vegetables in the traditional way, this system doesn’t require much land or light and involves little care and attention, with just a smartphone needed to grow fresh and clean vegetables at home. In addition to customers in urban areas, Hachi also sets its sights on clean vegetable farms on areas of 100 to 1,000 sq m. Hachi is also expanding to new vegetables such as Japanese tomatoes, Japanese cucumbers, and Japanese melons, and growing on drip irrigation technology, which saves up to 95 per cent of water and fertilizer.

Smart solution

According to experts, productivity in hydroponic vegetable growing can be 50 to 300 per cent higher than that of soil cultivation. The application of hi-tech in agriculture also helps save on labor and helps farmers control temperature, humidity, light, and nutrition. “Thanks to controlling these factors, Hachi’s hi-tech agricultural models not only provides two to three-times greater productivity but also results in savings on water and nutrient resources and care costs,” said Mr. Truong. “The application of hi-tech also cuts pestilence and disease, minimizing the need for pesticide use and contributing to environmental protection.”

Compared to traditional methods, the input costs for hydroponic farming are quite high but maintenance costs are reasonable. Most systems run automatically, with customers primarily monitoring electro-conductivity (EC) and pH levels according to Hachi’s technology transfer guidelines to make appropriate changes. While a hydroponic system requires electricity, systems for sun-cutting, misting (automated), seed costs, and nutritional costs are provided by Hachi, making monthly maintenance costs affordable. A farm with an area of 500 to 1,000 sq m may need only one caregiver. Some Hachi customers are earning more than VND100 million ($4,200) a month by growing and selling vegetables using its system.

After more than 2 years of implementation, Hachi’s farms provide tons of clean vegetables to the market each month. It has built more than 20 farms around the country, such as the Delco farm in northern Bac Ninh province on an area of 1,000 sq m, a farm in Nghi Xuan district in north-central Ha Tinh province on an area of 1,000 sq m, and Hokkaido farm in the central highlands’ Da Lat city on an area of 1,500 sq m. One of Hachi’s significant achievements in 2018 was the signing of a deal to build a hydroponic farm on an area of 4,000 sq m in Melbourne, Australia.

Hachi was honored to appear on a list of the most prominent startups in Asia at the World Economic Forum on ASEAN 2018 together with others from the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Mr. Truong revealed that it is also actively working with a number of partners in Japan and South Korea to expand projects in the two markets.

He also noted, however, that while hi-tech applications in agriculture appeared a long time ago they remain relatively new in Vietnam. “Users therefore find it hard to make accurate assessment of how effective applying Hachi’s solutions is compared to conventional solutions,” he added.

Many experts have said that only large corporations and enterprises with financial capacity and long-term development strategies can sustain an investment in this field and ensure efficiency, such as Vingroup’s VinEco, the TH Group, and Vinamilk. Most small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face difficulties when investing in hi-tech agriculture and some have learned costly lessons in failure.

Though difficulties remain, Mr. Truong believes that demand for clean food is increasing so agricultural models that ensure safe and tasty products will be better received as time goes by.