Australia helps Son La offer low-cost postharvest solution

Thursday, 15/09/2022 12:21
(CPV) - CoolBot technology uses controllers that allow conventional air-conditioning units to reach a temperature as low as 5oC. This technology can be applied for walk-in coolers and trucks to store and transport fresh vegetables and fruits.
Representative of the project presents Dr Kim Wimbush, Aus4Innovation Program Director, about the project's achievements. 

The innovative cooling technology CoolBot has been showcased publicly after successful pilots in Moc Chau, Son La province.

The showcase and pilots are within the framework of the project “Cool Chain to Maintain Produce Quality from Son La to Urban Market” funded by the Australian government through its Aus4Innovation program.

The project has successfully installed eleven walk-in coolers and two refrigerated trucks using CoolBot for farmers and cooperatives in Moc Chau. Initial evaluation on possible improvements, in terms of produce quality maintenance and income to farmers if the solution is to be applied, was also undertaken to help farmers make informed decisions.

Speaking of the project’s success, Director of the Aus4Innovation program, Dr Kim Wimbush, said, “CoolBot is a proven solution developed for small householder farmers in developing countries and has been widely applied. By introducing this technology to Vietnam, we hope to bring about new opportunities for the local agrifood products to reach new and further markets and contribute to sustaining the livelihoods of local farmers.”

Ms Cam Thi Phong, Deputy Director General, Son La Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, also added: “Application of science and technology is among the solutions for enhancing agriculture and the food sector as determined by the province’s leadership. We appreciate the project as they provided a whole package of technology transfer and training, and consolidating a network embedding business partners, research institutes and local government to enable the solution to work sustainably.”

The project started in September 2020 with funding of AUD 378,000 from the Aus4Innovation program.

The project team has since worked with farmer groups to pilot how low-cost CoolBot refrigeration using domestic air conditioners could provide the missing cooling function in the vegetable chain, increase farmer incomes and improve quality and supply of vegetables for consumers in Vietnam.

The fruit and vegetable sector is an important source of employment and income for the people in Son La province, especially women. With supermarkets and convenience stores in Hanoi and other big cities thriving, high quality agricultural products are now in great demand.

However, the lack of a functional cool chain between Son La and Hanoi means that farmers are having to throw away up to 30% of the produce, as it arrives in poor condition, this particularly affects highly perishable crops such as lettuce, beans and tomatoes.

Aus4Innovation, launched in 2018, is a AUD 16.5 million flagship program funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), co-funded and managed by Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, and delivered in collaboration with the Ministry of Science and Technology of Vietnam. It aims to strengthen Vietnam’s innovation system, prepare for and embrace opportunities associated with Industry 4.0, and help shape Vietnam’s innovation agenda in science and technology./.