Founder of Tam Khoe fresh food brand: keen on green agriculture

August 13, 2018 | 17:19
A stage director with a record of more than 10 years in the field, Pham Cong Chinh found his passion for agriculture when he founded a firm specialised in providing “ready to cook” fresh agricultural produce under the Tam Khoe brand. Hong Phuc reports.
founder of tam khoe fresh food brand keen on green agriculture
Pham Cong Chinh, the founder of Tam Khoe

Promoting the aquaponic model

Pham Cong Chinh has just flown to Singapore, where he met with a business partner. The two sides are about to sign a cooperation agreement. After more than three years of operations, his company has found a financial investor with an investment value of nearly VND50 billion ($2.2 million).

All of Chinh’s business decisions usually come after careful consideration. Sometimes, potential financial investors set profit margins beyond their capacity, forcing project leaders to choose whether to continue or refuse. “I did not find investors, they found me. During the process, I had to refuse many offers,” Chinh said.

After a period of studying and experimenting with three production methods—aquaponics, hydroponics, and organics—Chinh chose to use the first, an integrated system that combines growing vegetables and raising fish based on natural production principles.

Elaborating on his chosen method, Chinh described it as an automatic, indoors, organic, hydroponic vegetable growing and fish raising system with “three nos”: no land use, no fertiliser use, and no need for watering, but still producing green vegetables and fresh fish.

Water from the aquaculture system is fed into the hydroponic system, where the by-products are broken down by nitrifying bacteria, initially into nitrites and subsequently into nitrates that are utilised by the plants as nutrients. The water is then re-circulated into the aquaculture system.

“This ensures that the producers do not use any chemicals during production. If they do, the fish will die immediately,” Chinh said.

His company, Tam Khoe, is making efforts to expand its material growing areas and to control product quality.

In fact, the supply volume to feed the market’s needs has yet to be stabilised. Some days, only several hundred kilogrammes of products are sold, while sales might reach dozens of tonnes on other days, depending on product types and customers, who consist of retail consumers and supermarket chains.

There are also multiple opportunities for Tam Khoe to increase the exports of its products, as the company has orders to export several hundred tonnes of products per week to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Australia.

Pham Cong Chinh is proud of the technologies currently in use at the farm, particularly those related to tracing products’ origins, a decisive requirement for the products to be chosen by export partners.

Pham Cong Chinh is proud of the technologies currently in use at the farm, particularly those related to tracing products’ origins, a decisive requirement for the products to be chosen by export partners.

The company is perfecting its product standards and linkage chains in packaging to be able to export about 100 tonnes of tomatoes a week to Singapore.

Building a prestigious agricultural brand

The largest hindrance for a stage director to act as a businessman does not lie in accounting or finding suitable growth strategies, as to tackle these issues, one only needs to recruit good people, Chinh said.

“I have employed an US expert to fill the post of financial director. What caused me headaches at the start was pests and how to make bioproduce, while I had no trouble finding the people to fill empty posts in the system,” Chinh shared.

Chinh majored in cultural works management, acted as a stage director for several programmes, and later established a media firm which failed after a while.

In the end, Chinh found that agriculture fit him the most and was his passion.

Initially, Chinh built Tam Khoe with just 1,000sq.m of land in Binh Chanh District of Ho Chi Minh City. The brand has been developing quickly and now covers about 400ha of agricultural land (including aligned and self production) in various provinces and municipalities.

Initially, Chinh reached his customers by giving the products to his friends and neighbours for trial use for more than a month. As of now, his company has more than 3,000 retail customers with order values averaging VND300,000 ($13) three times a week from each, in addition to corporate customers.

This year, Tam Khoe is set to slash all intermediate phases as well as accept low profits to expand its customer base.

Delivery is also a thorny issue to Tam Khoe, as it affects the products’ freshness and customers’ trust.

“I am mulling over either building a specialised delivery team or outsourcing the service,” Chinh said.

His ultimate target is to build a prestigious agricultural produce brand. In the not-too-distant future he also aims to diversify the product range to include fruit juice as well as dried and pickled items in a ready-to-eat form.

Chinh said a new push is needed to spur Tam Khoe’s growth, and he welcomes mergers and acquisitions in order to bring his company’s brand value to new heights.

By Hong Phuc

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