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Grow more with less water and nutrients in Vietnam

The Partners for Water program from the Netherlands recently approved a project in Vietnam under the project name: “Improving water availability and safety through optimized irrigation and fertilizer application by hydroponic growers in Vietnam,” the project will establish 2 pilot locations to demonstrate the feasibility and advantages of reusing drain water to local horticulture farmers in Lam Dong province, which is the horticultural production center of Vietnam. The project consortium partners are Ridder, Royal Brinkman, HollandDoor, and Fresh Studio. Before the application of this pilot project, a thorough feasibility study was undertaken by the consortium, providing sufficient understanding and proof for which crops and under which circumstances an investment in reusing drain water has the fastest return on investment.

Focus on water safety and water security
In Vietnam, the modern greenhouse sector is fast developing, especially in the highlands of Lam Dong Province, which is since decades the main production region of fresh vegetables and flowers for the densely populated urban Mekong, including Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). To prevent soilborne diseases and to increase productivity, greenhouse production in Lam Dong is shifting fast towards hydroponic greenhouse cultivation (out of soil, on a substrate), in which irrigation is combined with fertilizer application (fertigation). In terms of water efficiency, hydroponic cultivation is much more efficient, however, irrigation requirements are still significant. This project is unique as it unlocks abilities in both the fields of water safety and water security:

  • Water security: increasing water use efficiency to produce horticultural produce and thereby decreasing the water footprint of vegetables and flowers produced by saving 10 - 35% of irrigation water.
  • Water safety: greatly reducing the contamination of the environment (eutrophication) by avoiding leaching of nutrient-rich drain water into the environment.

The rapid expansion of intensive horticulture production combined with irrigation practices and management, which are not optimized, is putting pressure on the availability of sufficient irrigation water. The limits of available irrigation water resources are already reached. The increasing demand for fresh vegetables this creates a risk for food security in some periods of the year. Using irrigation water more efficiently and increasing the water use efficiency will enable the horticulture sector in Vietnam to grow in a sustainable manner while ensuring food security and water availability in the future.

Dutch technologies adapted to local circumstances
The reuse of drain water is not yet applied in Vietnam by local growers, while this is common practice in the Netherlands within the horticulture sector. Adapting the technologies applied in the Netherlands to be technically and economically feasible in Vietnam to reuse drain water makes this project unique and innovative. Especially the Ridder VitaLite system, which has not yet been applied by local vegetable growers in Vietnam. It may seem simple to copy the Dutch system and put it in place in Vietnam, but it is certainly not as simple as that. The systems to reuse drain water have been developed and have evolved over 40 years. Access to knowledge and companies providing services related to the reusing of drain water are readily available in the Netherlands. This is, however, not the case in Vietnam. To introduce the reuse of drain water successfully in Vietnam, a holistic approach is required. For example, a system that disinfects drain water will not work if there is no well-working drain water collecting system collecting and transporting the drain water to the system. The system also requires adaptations in monitoring and adjusting the fertilizer application program to prevent that crops will not perform up to their full potential.

To demonstrate and convince horticulture growers (main beneficiaries) to invest in this technology, they will establish a pilot project, where 2 systems to reuse drain water with the Ridder VitaLite are established with local growers. Through these 2 pilot systems, the project will:

  • Test the system on a commercial scale and eliminate any unforeseen issues.
  • Quantify the results of drain water reuse, e.g., crop performance, water savings, fertilizer savings (water footprint) of crops grown, and return on investment.
  • Demonstrate the Ridder VitaLite technology enabling drain water reuse to 500 – 750 growers, stimulating the adoption of the technology by local growers.
  • Create awareness of authorities of the benefit of reuse of drain water.
  • Enable upscaling and commercial application of reusing drain water by Vietnamese growers.
  • Develop a leasing construction for growers who are unable to make the investment themselves.

The long-term objective of this pilot project is for the reuse of drain water to become standard practice in the horticulture sector in Vietnam. This will support the development of a more sustainable, environmentally friendly, and more efficient horticulture sector as the reuse of drain water will greatly improve the water use efficiency and prevent contamination of the environment (eutrophication) through leaching of nutrient-rich drain water into the environment. At the same time, reusing drain water will reduce production costs and make Vietnamese growers more cost-efficient.


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