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.
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