Start-up uses sugarcane to save shrimp hinh anh 1Tran Phuc Hau (second right) receive second prize at the National Start-up Competition 2018. — Photo Courtesy of Tran Phuc Hau (Source: VNA)

Ben Tre (VNS/VNA) - With the unique idea of using fermented bagasse (sugarcane pulp) to treat shrimp ponds, Tran Phuc Hau has become the proud director of a company that produces microbiological bagasse pulp.

His idea won second prize at the National Start-up Competition 2018 held by the National Start-up Programme Steering Committee.

To set up Dai Thanh Aquatic Product Trading Co Ltd, which is in Binh Dai district in the southern province of Ben Tre, Hau faced a number of difficulties.

Hau, 31, was from a poor family. Witnessing his parents work hard in the fields to raise seven children, Hau was determined to be a success.

He passed the entrance exam to the Ho Chi Minh City University of Economics in 2006 where he nurtured a dream for a start-up in the agricultural industry.

He started with a shop selling shrimp feed in 2012, but at that time shrimps in the area were being hit by an epidemic and died en masses. Local farmers could not pay Hau for the feed had bought, leaving him with a debt of more than 200 million VND (8,700 USD).

“I wasn't discouraged, and I searched for information online and found a farmer named Vo Hong Ngoan in Bac Lieu province who was using bagasse pulp to prevent diseases hitting shrimp farms,” he said.

Hau contacted Ngoan to learn from his experience and started researching the product.

“I discovered that bagasse provides a good environment for useful microorganisms to grow and repress microorganisms that are harmful to shrimp,” Hau told Vietnam News.

Bagasse pulp also helps shrimp gain resistance and restores mineral in the ponds.

However, Hau was broke and had to scrape around to raise 10 million VND (430 USD).  

Hau started collecting bagasse from around his village, despite ridicule from locals. Luckily, he was supported by his family.

He conducted dozens of tests, but couldn't get the bagasse to ferment.

He tried adjusting his method by using different kinds of microbiology, and eventually he succeeded.

But then came the next problem. His product was new and strange, and people were reluctant to buy it.

Hau decided to use the product in his own pond first.

The bagasse pulp is mixed with medicinal herbs and can be used as feed to reduce diseases and replace antibiotics in the ponds.

“When harvest season came, I had a good crop, and my expenses were 30 percent less than other farmers,” he said.

Now he sells more than 30 tonnes from north to south such as Tra Vinh, Soc Trang, Kien Giang, Bac Lieu, Ninh Thuan and Nam Dinh.

Mai Van Hung, a farmer in Binh Thoi commune, Binh Dai district, told Dong Khoi e-newspaper that Hau’s bagasse pulp has proved to be very effective in his shrimp pond.

The pulp helped improve the water and allowed water plants to grow.

What Hung likes the product the most is that it is cheaper than other feeding but brings better results.

Phan Van Mai, Chairman of the Ben Tre Start-up Consultancy Committee, also told Dong Khoi e-newspaper that Hau’s model was one of a few in the province that had been highly appreciated in the market.

The committee would create good conditions for Hau and other people with start-up ideas to promote their creations. This would help them earn more money and enrich the province and the country, he said.

On average, each month Hau earns 40 million VND (1,700 USD) in profit from microbiological bagasse pulp.

“The more I do, the more confident I feel with my product,” he said.

Hau said he planned to research more biological methods including medicinal herbs to protect shrimp from diseases towards sustainable models adapted to climate change.

At present, Hau’s company is connected with more than 50 households in the area with shrimp ponds covering 20ha. Their target is to improve the quality so the shrimp can be exported.

“When people begin start-up ideas, the most important thing is defining clearly their targets. The target is not only immediate profits, but also unique, effective and sustainable products,” Hau told Vietnam News.

They also needed to live up with those targets and should not be satisfied with what they'd got, he said./.