Vietnam’s TraceVerified Tells You Where Your Food Comes From
Because consumers, foreign or domestic, must get to know the products they eat
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
We take many things for granted, and one of these is the journey that our food makes from the farm to our table. We don’t normally inquire where the fruit we eat came from, or what processes our meat products underwent before we enjoy portions of them on our plate.
But countries that import food products from agricultural-based economies demand more. The European Union, for instance, requires the establishment of a trace verification system; product information should be recorded and goods have to be labeled correctly to provide data on point of origin tracing, according to a publication by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. The United States, too, requires exporters to send an origin tracing report before the shipment reaches its shores.
Vietnam, as an agricultural exporting economy, is responding to this trend. Food production is the livelihood of more than 10 million Vietnamese families. In 2015, exports reached $30.14 billion, even higher than the domestic food market – for 90 million people – of $29.5 billion.
This is where TraceVerified, a start-up established in 2015, makes its mark.
Beginning by observing
Binh Bui is the CEO of TraceVerified. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a Master’s degree in public policy.
Right after his graduation, he took a trip all over Vietnam and researched on farming practices. He found out that while countries that import their food are interested in tracking the journey of the products, domestic consumers do not really care about food safety. Likewise, food producers – middlemen between consumers and farmers – would not want to incur additional costs.
Binh, who believes consumers foreign or domestic must get to know the products they eat, has nursed the idea of a tracing method as early as 2013.
It took another two years – and the support of foreign non-government organizations like the Danish Global Competitiveness Facility – to bring Binh’s ideas to fruition.
An issue of coordination
Binh worked with his co-founders Hong Minh, Dau Thuy Ha, and Truong Dinh Hoe to establish TraceVerified toward the end of 2015.
His main job as CEO is to coordinate among the various stakeholders – exporters, small producers, farming households and consumers -- to make the solution more valuable.
“My experience has allowed me to deeply understand food producers and the supply chain. Day by day, we learn from them to develop traceability solutions,” he says.
Of all his learning, Binh says he has developed the patience to “wait for the right time to connect.”
At your fingertips
Currently, TraceVerified has 50 partners producing fish, vegetable, fruits, meat, and seafood. Information about these products is contained in barcodes and QR codes that can be read by any smart device.
These codes contain information pertaining to the farm (plant seeds and cultivation diary), transportation (transportation ticket, type of vehicle used, time, and even the driver), warehouse (inspection, sorting, classification, storage), processing (classification, time, workers, slot), packaging (type of package, time and date) and retail and export sales (time and date of receiving, quantity, products).
The business earns by having food producers pay monthly fees. Revenues, according to Binh, have grown twice compared to the numbers last year.
Binh and his team are still in the process of communicating to farmers and producers why exactly tracing and verification are important. It is not just because it would be in compliance with importers’ requirements, but because transparency in the origin and safety of food products must be valued.
“I am always thinking about how to make the diary information better, and let the consumers know what their farmers do every day,” Binh says.