Vietnam’s system of agricultural research funding has recently moved from a centrally planned system to one where institutions bid for research money out of core-funding. Research institutes have been directed to become almost entirely self-funded or face closure. They are therefore moving to commercialise research results and generate income. This small research activity supported a pilot research commercialisation of a new company - a joint venture involving the Plant Protection Research Institute (PPRI), Hoa Binh Pesticide Company and An Thinh Brewery. The activity focused on building a viable and sustainable market for the commercialised product - a protein bait that attracts and traps fruit flies. A second part of the activity was to take the lessons learnt from this pilot commercialisation and apply them to commercialising pro-poor research results in Vietnam’s agricultural area.
The protein bait commercialization project has been ongoing for just over 1 year, commencing with the inauguration of the Ento-pro production facility in Bac Giang province. The anticipated completion date of the project has been extended by six months in order to allow completion of a promising field demonstration and for extended media promotion of Ento-pro.
The majority of project activities have been completed, with the remaining activities proposed to be (i) field demonstration of Ento-pro in Hai Phong province (ii) training of distribution staff in three provinces and (iii) ongoing media promotion.
The commercialization of Ento-pro is proceeding relatively well, with production and sales of more than 14,000 kilograms (litres) of Ento-pro in 2007-2008, protecting an estimated more than 1000 hectares of fruit in the Northern and Central provinces from fruit fly infestation. This is delivering substantial economic, social and environmental benefits to smallholder fruit farmers.
The successful demonstrations, distribution staff training and media promotion have set a good base for the further expansion of Ento-pro production and use in fruit protection in the North and Centre of Vietnam.
During 2005-06 advice was provided to PPRI in identifying and setting up of protein bait plants in collaboration with appropriate breweries (investors) and to set up a distribution network for the protein bait in collaboration with plant protection chemical companies. This has involved the development of a detailed business plan. Negotiations have been undertaken to specify a detailed agreement among partners, including PPRI, An Thinh Brewery and Hoa Binh Agricultural Chemical Company, to establish a joint-venture company. PPRI will be responsible for quality control of the protein bait and will coordinate the transfer of control techniques by providing training and demonstration trials to farmers.
On the basis of this initial assistance a joint-venture company has been registered and capital subscribed, and preparation of the investment in equipment has commenced. The investment funds all come from the three partners in the joint venture company.
A major rationale for this project was to assist in the pilot commercialisation of a pro-poor research product (in this case protein baits) in order to generate information and ideas for researchers to draw on in the quest to commercialise research results. The project partners recognised the reality of an extremely low level of knowledge and expertise in the area of transforming research results into business ideas and then taking the step to full commercialisation. This is hardly surprising when those staffing the institutes are generally scientists and they have never had to operate under a system of self-funded research.
The area for fruit production of Vietnam has increased dramatically over the years, reaching 747,000 ha in 2004. In the northern and central regions the fruit area increased to more than 300,000 ha in 2002, accounting for almost 50% of the fruit production area of the whole country. This area is expected to reach 424,000 ha in 2010. However, the paramount constraint affecting fruit farmers is the damage caused by insect pests, especially fruit flies that have caused serious losses up to 100% on various fruit crops and in many places.
Controls usually employed by farmers are ineffective, costly, detrimental to the environment and pose food safety concerns because of chemical residues left on fruit. In an effort to better control fruit flies, the new control measure using low-cost protein baits was developed from research projects funded by ACIAR. The protein bait acts as an attractant to all mature fruit flies and is processed from spent yeast of breweries. It is not only cheap and easy to apply but environment-friendly as well, reflecting a comprehensive solution for the control against fruit flies. Most importantly, this protein keeps fruit products free from chemical residue, thus ensuring safety for consumers and especially promoting the sustainable export into competitive international markets.
The project determined that currently the demand for the protein bait in Vietnam is not being met. The only bait-processing plant at Fosters in Tien Giang province has a maximum and small annual capacity of about 110-120 tonnes. However, it is currently producing only 50 tonnes per year and supplies bait to only Tien Giang and adjacent provinces.
Based on the production areas of some typical fruits in 2005, preliminary studies by PPRI estimated that the demand for protein bait in intensive fruit production areas of provinces in the northern and central regions is about 250 tonnes per year. If 100% of the export-oriented fruit area were to be treated with this biological control measure, the demand would be significantly higher, reaching more than 1,000 tonnes per year. Apart from the domestic demand, there is demand for export of protein bait to other neighbouring countries that cannot produce protein bait due to little beer production. The demand for protein bait in 2010 is projected at approximately 5,000 tonnes.