Orfarm spearheads organic thinking for Vietnam’s agriculture

January 06, 2020 | 14:28
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Although the prices of organic products are higher than refined or processed equivalents, this is offset by their precious value to human health and the environment, and grown in accordance with the forward-thinking environmental model of co-existence and sustainability, according to one top Vietnamese group in the field.
orfarm spearheads organic thinking for vietnams agriculture
Orfarm utilises a four-step process to ensure its organic food meets the highest quality of standards

Organic products have been on the market for some time, but they have yet to make significant inroads into the shopping habits of the average Vietnamese family. Comparing the selling price of normal foods with organic foods, there is a large difference. However, there is a limited supply of organic foods in comparison to products which are grown and bred under the industrial model.

The stance is explained by Bui Bich Lien, owner of organic food production and distribution chain Orfarm. Food demand is expected to increase massively by 2050, which will shape agricultural markets in ways not seen before. Farmers worldwide will need to increase crop production, either by increasing the amount of agricultural land to grow crops or by enhancing productivity on existing land through fertiliser and irrigation, and adopting new methods like precision farming, according to Lien.

Thus, traditional livestock and cultivation methods supply limited products to the market because there is no involvement of any harmful factors to enhance productivity. For example, says Lien, it takes four months to increase the weight of a baby pig to 100kg under the industrial breeding method. This time is doubled under the organic method. The traditional system has yet to create mass products to meet demand, but it does have massive advantages. The first one is safety. Because this farming model is on a smaller scale, farmers or investors can carefully monitor the livestock and cultivation process, from selecting and developing seeds, to making feed and fertiliser.

Controlling the risk of environmental pollution is a factor resulting in limited production. The breeding and cultivation process is a circular model. There is no smell of animal manure and discharge of untreated wastewater into the environment, because the manure is used to create fertiliser, with a portion of the crops used for animal feed.

Lien said, “At our farms, animals and crops are grown by natural methods but methodically, with a highly limited use of weight gainers, fertiliser, and antibiotics.” Orfarm goods are produced according to three main criteria: zero waste, no insecticides, and no stimulants or harmful chemicals, she added.

“Using advanced methods, effective microorganism technology creates farming conditions whereby putrefactive microorganisms are suppressed and organic materials are enhanced through the process of fermentation as opposed to putrefaction,” said Lien. “In addition, living organisms, as well as inorganic materials are equipped with the means to impede deterioration.”

In terms of the noticeable difference in price, Lien stated that if customers weigh up the nutritional value of organic food versus the health risks posed by conventionally-grown food, they will recognise the clear benefits offered by organic products.

orfarm spearheads organic thinking for vietnams agriculture
ORFARM chicken was cooked and served by French Michelin-star chefs at the Culinary Festival in the Embassy of France in Hanoi.

For example, ultra-processed foods can carry the threat of disease, especially cancer, due to the residues of antibiotics and drugs in animals’ bodies. In addition, if children eat meats containing undigested weight gainers, they may experience puberty earlier than normal.

“Organic nutrition that suits cellular needs will help the body to easily absorb nutrients and convert them into energy, while helping the immune system and accelerating the elimination of toxins,” said Lien. “This is especially important for prepubescent children as their cells are still developing, affecting their physical and intellectual growth.”

Animals and crops need to be given enough time to grow and reach an acceptable nutritional value. “Therefore if they are harvested early or forced to eat weight gainers to reach the standard growth in a short time, their nutritional value will be nearly zero,” continued Lien. “For instance, the oil of perilla leaves can be used as a medicine. It should take two months for the perilla tree to produce oil. However, if people use fertiliser to shorten the tree’s development time, the leaves are no more nutritious than grass. This means that we should buy a few organic products of high nutritional value instead of wasting money on large quantities of food with little nutritional benefit and other health risks.”

orfarm spearheads organic thinking for vietnams agriculture
ORFARM special "Chung" cake is an indispensable gift for family, partner and friends during the Vietnamese Lunar New Year

The abuse of fertiliser has a serious detrimental effect on arable land and biodiversity. In the long run, future generations may face a lack of good agricultural land due to the impact of inorganic fertilisers.

Reducing the price gap between conventional and organic foods on the market, including those produced by Orfarm, may represent a perfect opportunity for customers to approach a more healthy food lifestyle.

By Kim Oanh

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