For his unique idea of using fermented bagasse (sugarcane pulp) to treat shrimp ponds, Tran Phuc Hau's Dai Thanh Aquatic Product Trading Co Ltd won second prize at the National Start-up Competition 2018 held by the National Start-up Programme Steering Committee, Vietnam News Agency reported.
To set up his company 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 successful.
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 shrimp in the area were hit by a deadly epidemic. Local farmers could not pay Hau for the feed they had bought, leaving him with a debt of more than 200 million VND (US$8,700).
"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 shared.
Bagasse pulp also helps improve shrimp immunity and restore mineral content in ponds.
Hau then started raising money and collecting bagasse from around his village.
He conducted numerous tests, but could not get the bagasse to ferment.
Adjusting his method by using different types of microbiology, he ultimately succeeded.
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 ponds.
"When harvest season came, I had a good crop, and my expenses were 30% less than other farmers," he said.
Today he sells more than 30 tonnes of fermented bargasse across Vietnam including Tra Vinh, Soc Trang, Kien Giang, Bac Lieu, Ninh Thuan and Nam Dinh.
Phan Van Mai, Chairman of the Ben Tre Start-up Consultancy Committee, 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.
Hau said he planned to conduct research on more biological methods including for medicinal herbs to guard against shrimp disease and provide sustainable models adapted to climate change.