- It is all about people!
Vu Nguyen explains enthusiastically how private companies can benefit from the exchange programme.
Vu is manager and FK partner contact in Høst Asia, a company handling waste and producing organic fertilizers.
- Our end product is very sustainable, Vu says. He got into the industry by chance, meeting the right person at a lecture in Bergen, Norway.
Vu earned a Master's degree in Energy, Natural Resources and the Environment at the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration (NHH) in Norway. He specialised in oil. And then he met Torleiv Næss Ugland, the founder of Høst, when he had a lecture about business in China. Long story short: now Vu is Director of International Sales and Marketing of Høst Asia in Ho Chi Minh City.
- Selling sustainable ideas is more difficult than selling oil, Vu says. But his passion is to use his knowledge to make the world less polluted.
Huge potential for sewage sludge
Big cities need to spend a lot of money to dispose sewage sludge from households today, and the potential is huge if the waste can be recovered and reused.
- Agriculture is a big market in Vietnam, says Vu. Production of rice, coffee and other products has a great value. Which means they use a lot of fertilizers to get the most out of the harvest. The Norwegian company Yara International is big in Asia, marketing chemical fertilisers. Organic fertilizers do only have 10% of the market. Vu sees the potential and says the farmers know this is the best solution to take care of the soil in the long run. But using organic fertilizers for example from poultry farms, is too much hard work for the farmers.
- Our fertilizer Minorga made of sewage sludge is different, Vu says. He promotes the unique features of the product, that is currently in a trial phase.
- We need to put the production to Vietnam to made it cost-effective, says Vu. The product is developed in Norway, but the potential in Vietnam is huge, he says.
Exchange Norway – Vietnam
Vietnam is one of FK Norway's 9 partner countries in Asia. The geography of Norway and Vietnam has some similiarities, they are both long-stretched countries and the land mass is about 330.000 square km. But Vietnam has 18 times higher population; 96 million people, while Norway has a population of 5,3 million.
A quarter of the Vietnamese live in the fertile southeast part of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta, where agriculture is the primary source of livelihood. There is a 12 month growing season in the area, which means 2 or 3 harvests a year.
Testing the fertilizer at mango
Mai (51) is one of the farmers in Mekong Delta, which is regarded as the food bowl of Vietnam. Rice, fruit and seafood harvested from this area provide food security to the whole country, and is also exported throughout Southeast Asia.
Mai is one of few female farm owners, and concerned about the environment, and said yes to be a trial farm for Minorga fertilizer. She guides us through her farm, which is divided in two percels- one parcel where organic fertilizer is applied, the other with chemical fertiliser. After a few months there is already visible difference between the two parcels.
- We can already see the differences at the fresh new shoots on the mangotrees, and also on the roots of the trees. It is more healthy, Mai says.
The result has to show improvements compared to the use of chemical fertilizers, to convince the farmers to use organic fertilizer. – I know the result will increase the outcome and the quality, but we need proof, says Vu. In March they will have the report, and can continue with the next step; to find co-partners in Vietnam to produce Minorga there.
Developing the concept of recycling
The founder of Høst, Torleiv Næss Ugland, has a vision. He wants to combine his knowledge about agriculture with the technology we have today to develop the concept of recycling. Høst was established in 2000 and has created a wide range of products to improve the soil fertility: a variety of fertilizers and soil enhancers, mostly used for crops but also flower beds.
Their vision is to find new ways to reuse our leftovers, both from housholds and industry, and reduce harmful effect to our nature.
- It is all about people and communication
- In Asia we respect old people, says Vu. After 4 years in Norway and 4 years in Finland, he knows a lot about European culture. And he knows that Norwegians can be very straight forward, which can be perceived as rude in Asian countries.
- Yes, it is about business model, it is about good partnership, and finding the right partner, but in the end it is about people and communication, he says.
This is what FK Norway can contribute to. Giving employees in different countries the possibility to get to know another culture, how it is to live there, which is very different than a short visit for meetings.
Clear goals for the exchange
Vu explains how they give each staffmember on exchange clear goals and follow up their tasks. To help them get a meaningful exchange period, learn a lot and also contribute to the company.
- Everyone need a job descripton, he says. And the cancidate need to be proactive. They seek out personell that want to stick to the company after their exchange and help developing the business fruther and use their experiences.
- In Høst we invest in people, Vu says. FK Norway and global partnerships help us with capacity building.