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Fargreen – Saving the environment by doubling farmers’ profits

This article is part of our series on the participants in this year’s Green Challenge Deep Dive at Rockstart. Our 10-day mini-accelerator allows the finalists of the Green Challenge 2014 to refine their business plan and work with our mentors in individualized training sessions. At the end of the program, the companies present their ideas in front of investors and their mentors.

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Lush scenery, with rice straw once gleaming in vibrant green and yellow, reduced to dark ash. Thick clouds of smoke obstructing the view of the otherwise beautiful Vietnamese countryside.

This is not the beginning of a tragic tale about farmers who lost their land in a humanitarian catastrophe. In fact, this is a common sight during the rice harvest season in many Asian countries, initiated by the field owners themselves. It is a story about a disaster nonetheless. Each year after retrieving their crop, farmers burn the remaining rice straw on their fields, leaving behind a trail of cinder. This releases millions of tons of green house gases, not only harming the environment in the long run, but also contributing to the emergence of smog in these areas.

Fortunately, as in most stories, there’s a hero in this tale. Meet Trang Tran and her colleagues. With their company Fargreen, the team has taken up the cause of finding a better use for disposed rice straw. For Fargreen, the answer to this problem was buried under a shallow layer of soil. They realized, that the straw is a particularly suitable substrate for growing edible mushrooms.

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The company is closely working together with farmers in Vietnam to allow for a closed farming cycle; after harvesting the rice, farmers are taught how to reutilize the straw to grow high quality mushrooms on their land. The harvested mushrooms are then sold to Fargreen and sent to their processing center, from where they are marketed to customers. The leftover mushroom soil is finally used to fertilize the next generation of rice plants.

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For the farmers, this process means more financial independence. Instead of only being able to make money on every rice harvest, they receive additional payment for their mushrooms. Instead of practically burning money by setting rice straw on fire and harming the environment, they can increase their income by 50%.

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To spread their ideas, Fargreen hosts workshop for farmers. Currently the company is based in Vietnam, with plans to grow their business and expand into other countries. During their time in the Green Challenge Deep Dive, Fargreen will work on their branding and talk to local mushroom suppliers.
Read more about other finalists of the Green Challenge 2014:

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