While Vietnam has seen several food delivery startups, or apps that do grocery shopping for the urban tech savvy population, Seedcom-backed Cau Dat Farm is among the first movers to tackle the supply side by leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT) trend.
Initially a tea factory built by the French in 1927 when Vietnam was a colony, the central highland farm produces a wide range of organic products.
Dinh Anh Huan, after exiting Mobile World – one of the biggest business success stories in Vietnam – to found Seedcom, had acquired part of the farm to launch Cau Dat Farm, the producer of coffee, tea, flowers and vegetables.
“Cau Dat Farm will be a platform for other agribusiness players to join, and all will produce quality goods,” Pham Ngoc Anh Tung, farm director of Cau Dat Farm, told DEALSTREETASIA on the sideline of the Asia IoT Business Platform’s 11th edition in Hanoi.
“The business strategy of Cau Dat Farm is to connect with farmers and transfer the technology to other enablers, because Cau Dat Farm alone cannot cover the country’s demand for food. The key in that strategy is to manage the entire network, ensuring the quality and transparency of the products made by other partners,” he elaborated on the operation.
Cau Dat Farm’s current IoT solutions deploy a gateway to collect data from farm through a system of sensors, weather stations and robots, so farm operations can be managed via the cloud.
The farm tech has started partnership with Intel in terms of expertise and hardware from the inception of business, as well as other international hardware suppliers and agribusiness experts. The company also looks to work with local telcos which have developed their IoT platforms.
Tung said Cau Dat Farm will build a standardised database for agriculture, which is not yet available in the country.
“Once these agriculture data becomes big enough, we will be able to solve the questions of forecasting crops, diseases and productivity. It will also help connect the value chain together, including farmers, agribusiness companies, retailers, experts and end users,” he added.
Tung, who had a technology background in automation and had started some projects before joining Dinh Anh Huan’s venture, is positive that the application of IoT in agriculture will be robust.
This is because IoT can ensure transparency of food production without exaggerating the costs, at a time that the country is highly concerned about food safety, he said.
A modest number of companies have started smart farming in the country. Among first movers is Captii Ventures-backed MimosaTEK, which provides real-time solutions to optimize farm operation. Tech mogul FPT Corporation has also partnered with Japanese IT equipment and service firm Fujitsu in a smart agriculture project in Hanoi.
FPT, as an established company, has a huge network to expand its services.
At Seedcom, the operations of the businesses leverage each other. Cau Dat Farm is already supplying materials for The Coffee House, a coffee shop chain with over 40 outlets across the country, while it has utilised web design service by Seedcom’s Haravan.
Having launched a retail and e-commerce network from tangible restaurants and shops to logistics and management solutions for small business and the F&B industry, Seedcom has been for long mistaken as a venture capital fund.
However, Huan clarified saying that Seedcom is just a regular company instead of an investment firm.
Due to a lack of regulations for venture capital funds in Vietnam, local investors normally set up a company with a license for investment activity in order to make funding into startups.