Høst has made a lu­cra­tive busi­ness out of turn­ing waste mat­ter into high qual­ity fer­tilis­ers

Høst has made a lu­cra­tive busi­ness out of turn­ing waste mat­ter into valu­able high qual­ity fer­tilis­ers and soil en­hancers with the aim of im­prov­ing soil fer­til­ity. In 2011 the com­pany en­tered the Viet­namese mar­ket.

Norway-Asia Business Review - - Contents - SOFIE LISBY

Born out of a vi­sion to com­bine age old agri­cul­tural prac­tices of reusing xor­ganic waste to fer­til­ize the soil with to­day’s tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances, Høst aims at find­ing new and in­no­va­tive ways to make bet­ter and safer use of agri­cul­tural, in­dus­trial and house­hold waste.

The com­pany was es­tab­lished in Nor­way in 2000 as a public pri­vate en­tity and has in a short time be­come one of the lead­ing com­pa­nies in Nor­way with an an­nual pro­duc­tion of more than 250,000 tonnes of bio-residues and crop care prod­ucts. In 2010 the com­pany started to look at op­por­tu­ni­ties abroad, start­ing with joint ven­tures in Ar­me­nia and China. As pro­duc­tion grew, the com­pany started to look over­seas and, following a trip to Viet­nam in 2011 as part of the Busi­ness Match Making Pro­gram, funded by the Nor­we­gian Agency for De­vel­op­ment and Co-op­er­a­tion (No­rad) and im­ple­mented by In­no­va­tion Nor­way, they started in­vest­ing in var­i­ous projects in the coun­try.

“Dur­ing 2013 to 2015 we in­ves­ti­gated dif­fer­ent di­men­sions of the Viet­namese fer­tiliser mar­ket and we de­cided to fo­cus on or­ganic fer­tilis­ers to be pro­duced from or­ganic man­ner” ex­plains Vu Nguyen, Høst‘s Viet­nam Chief Rep­re­sen­ta­tive. “In 2016, we have se­lected sev­eral lo­cal part­ners and will launch a new prod­uct by the end of this year, which will utilise a by-prod­uct from Elkem’s sil­i­con pro­cess­ing. In the be­gin­ning, we will ex­port fer­tilis­ers from Nor­way to Viet­nam but we plan to have a pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity in the re­gion within five years.”

Last year Høst in­tro­duced in­dus­tri­alised biosolid fer­tilis­ers to Asia, a project that had been un­der­way since 2007, and the com­pany is work­ing on es­tab­lish­ing Høst Asia by 2017. Ac­cord­ing to Vu Nguyen, the com­pany will be the first 100 per­cent Nor­we­gian-owned sub­sidiary in Asia and will be re­spon­si­ble for de­vel­op­ing Høst’s busi­nesses in the re­gion. One of the main fo­cus ar­eas will be to in­tro­duce high qual­ity crop-care prod­ucts us­ing or­ganic-based fer­tilis­ers and soil-con­di­tion­ers made from house­hold and in­dus­trial wastes.

“Our core prod­ucts are bioresidues based fer­tilis­ers for pri­vate and pro­fes­sional end users, i.e. farm­ers,” ex­plains Vu Nguyen. “One of our main prod­ucts is the MINORGA prod­uct con­cept: min­eral or­ganic fer­tilis­ers, which can be used as com­plete al­ter­na­tive to NPK [made macro-nu­tri­ents ni­tro­gen, phos­pho­rus and potas­sium, red.] and min­eral fer­tilis­ers We strongly be­lieve this shall be the key de­vel­op­ment in fer­tiliser mar­kets in Asia where farm­ers need to use more or­ganic ma­te­ri­als to re­cover the degrad­able soil, but also need a so­lu­tion to achieve good yield for their crops. With min­eral or­ganic so­lu­tions, farm­ers shall get same nu­tri­ent val­ues as other min­eral-based prod­ucts, yet fer­til­ize the soil with or­ganic sub­stances. This can be con­sid­ered as sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture prac­tice for the fu­ture.”

In Nor­way, Høst’s ac­tiv­i­ties are man­i­fold. The com­pany uses shell­fish and sed­i­ment waste from the mar­itime sec­tors such as fish farm­ing and mar­i­cul­ture in its fer­tilis­ers and of­fer a di­verse range of so­lu­tions for in­dus­try, agri­cul­ture and of­fi­cial institutions to bet­ter their waste man­age­ment. The com­pany has a re­search and de­vel­op­ment depart­ment where mi­cro­bi­ol­o­gists and agron­o­mists re­search and de­velop a wide range of user-spe­cific soil prod­ucts and so­lu­tions for agri­cul­ture and in­dus­try. It is us­ing that ex­per­tise to ex­pand in Viet­nam.

“Viet­nam is the largest agri­cul­ture and fer­tiliser mar­ket in South East Asia, making it the first op­tion to en­ter for many fer­tiliser com­pa­nies,” ex­plains Vu Nguyen. “Cur­rently, the farm­ing prac­tice in the coun­try make the soil vul­ner­a­ble to the chang­ing cli­mate with overuse of min­eral salts and oil-based fer­til­iza­tion for long pe­ri­ods of time.

Most of the large-scale pro­duc­tion of or­ganic fer­tiliser in the coun­try is based on peat as the main ma­te­rial, which is con­sid­ered a non-re­new­able re­source and may impose sig­nif­i­cant land degra­da­tion. Peat also re­leases high amount of green house gasses to the at­mos­phere in its min­ing and ap­pli­ca­tion. Re­cy­cled or­ganic residues, such as biosolid – the ac­tive in­gre­di­ents in our so­lu­tion – is the valu­able or­ganic ma­te­rial that helps to re­claim the bad soils and pro­vide the farm­ers with in­hab­ited land for growing their crops.

With a R&D cen­tre and sales op­er­a­tion in Viet­nam, we hope to build a good re­la­tion­ship with the Viet­namese farm­ers with a port­fo­lio of dif­fer­ent prod­ucts adapt­ing to trop­i­cal crops con­di­tion. Høst Asia is also re­spon­si­ble for sales to other neigh­bour­ing coun­tries, and a re­gional hub for our new fac­to­ries in Viet­nam or the re­gions.

“The po­ten­tial is huge, con­sid­er­ing Viet­nam is among the most pow­er­ful global agri­cul­ture na­tions,” points out Vu Nguyen. “The Viet­nam fer­tiliser mar­ket has seen ro­bust growth in re­cent decades with a sta­ble an­nual growth rate of be­tween 8-10 per­cent. More­over, when a num­ber of bi­lat­eral trade agree­ments such as the TTP, the EVFTA, the VKFTA and the VJFTA etc. come into ef­fect, the fer­tiliser mar­ket is ex­pected to boom. We are es­pe­cially in­ter­ested in a mar­ket seg­ment of greener agri­cul­ture prod­ucts.

Con­sumers are be­com­ing more con­scious about their gro­ceries, and de­mand cleaner and safer prod­ucts. The farm­ers, there­fore, look for bet­ter and sus­tain­able al­ter­na­tives in fer­til­iz­ing their crops. MINORGA®, our trade mark

of min­eral or­ganic fer­tiliser, will pro­vide Asia famers with not only a bet­ter qual­ity of prod­ucts, but also bet­ter pro­duc­tiv­ity.”

How­ever, chal­lenges re­main, ac­cord­ing to Vu Nguyen. “In my opin­ion, there are five ma­jor chal­lenges in Viet­nam fer­tiliser mar­ket. The first chal­lenge are reg­u­la­tions. Re­cently, the Viet­namese government has up­dated reg­u­la­tions of­ten and huge changes have been made. It is dif­fi­cult for us to catch up with these up­dates and mod­ify our busi­ness plan ac­cord­ingly.

The sec­ond chal­lenge is that dis­tri­bu­tion net­works and pro­cesses are too lengthy, and lo­cal dis­tributers are so pow­er­ful that our prod­ucts be­come costly for end-con­sumers.

The third chal­lenge is cor­rup­tion and red-tape is­sues. Lo­cal com­pa­nies have dif­fer­ent prac­tices to­wards this is­sue; we have a zero-tol­er­ance pol­icy, which makes com­pe­ti­tion un­fair for com­pa­nies like us.

The fourth chal­lenge is find­ing the right part­ners, which con­sumes a lot of time and ef­forts.

The last chal­lenge has to do with hu­man re­sources as it is not easy to find good lo­cal em­ploy­ees and keep them with us for a long time. To over­come the last chal­lenges, we ap­ply the FK pro­gram, which al­lows us to ex­change tech­ni­cians with our over­seas sub­sidiaries. The FK pro­gram works well in China, where we put Chi­nese tech­ni­cians to work at our Nor­we­gian of­fice for a year, then place them back to be pioneers at our of­fice in China. We plan to do the same for Viet­nam.”

Up­per left pic­ture shows Vu Nguyen, Høst‘s Viet­nam Chief Rep­re­sen­ta­tive with happy farmer.

PHOTO: HØST ASIA

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