This year, this IT-based agricultural project will experiment with growing high-value-added vegetables including medium-sized tomatoes and low-potassium leaf lettuce that will be the source of clean, ready-to-eat food.

The potassium content in this kind of lettuce is one-fifth that in lettuce grown in any ordinary way, making it suitable for diabetics and people who are on a diet.

Under an agreement between Fujitsu and FPT Corporation signed in 2014, Fujitsu provided cloud services, equipment and expertise, while FPT facilitated the spread of information technology in the agricultural sector.

A 400-square-metre centre, comprising a greenhouse to cultivate tomatoes and a vegetable factory to grow lettuce, was set up at the Fruit and Vegetable Research Institute in Trau Quy Town, Gia Lam district of Hanoi.

"The showcase environment information and video information about the cultivation area can be monitored, not only onsite, but from Japan as well, enabling remote cultivation guidance," said Truogn Gia Binh, CEO of FPT Corporation.

The area is self-contained. Yellow electric boards are set up between vegetables beds to help control cultivation and prevent the entry of insects.

Environmental information, including temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide level, sunlight and rain, in addition to wind direction and speed, is gathered in real time by a variety of sensors installed in the greenhouse.

This information is used to autonomously control the facilities, such as curtains and fans. This facility is combined with IMEC film farming, in which plants are grown on a thin film, using a hydrogel membrane.

Since the film allows only water and nutrients to pass, and keeps out viruses and microbes, the crops grown are safe for consumption.

In addition, because the plants receive optimal water stress by absorbing nutrients through the hydrogel membrane, they create a higher volume of sugars and amino acids, creating crops with high sugar content and high nutritional value.

That is why one will be able to consume fresh vegetables cut from branches without washing them.

With this technology, tomatoes are planted at a density of 4,000-6,000 plants in 1,000 square metres. And cultivation can take place all year long, without being dependent on seasons and weather.

"In Vietnam, there are calls to develop agricultural businesses to ensure food safety by promoting innovation in agricultural production technologies and in recognition of the issue of pesticide overuse," Binh said.

"The aim of this partnership is to support the restructuring of Vietnam's agricultural sector to make the country a world-class agricultural producer based on innovative technologies."

These innovative food and agriculture will contribute to stable production volumes and higher product quality, which would otherwise depend on the expert judgement of farmers, he said.

Binh appreciated the high potential of the project, but also expressed concern at the obstacles while implementing the Japanese technique in Vietnam.

"Fujitsu and FPT are leading information technology corporations of Japan and Vietnam, but we faced numerous difficulties in establishing the smart agriculture centre, such as the procedure to import technology from abroad," B์nh said.

"We have only borrowed the technology from Japan, and Vietnamese enterprises should now learn to master it," he said.

Enterprises that want to get involved in this form of smart agriculture should meet to study and understand the technology, he said.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat agreed that Vietnam's agricultural sector is looking for foreign and domestic investors, especially those using advanced technology.

Applying advanced technology to farming will help the country set up modern agricultural techniques with a highly competitive capacity.

"However, the procedure to import chains and devices to produce takes much more time," he said.

"The government policy requires management agencies to streamline procedures such as customs procedures for the import of materials and farm produce."

Phat said at the opening ceremony of the FPT-Fujitsu centre that the centre is considered a good model to boost hi-tech agricultural growth in Vietnam.

The Agriculture Ministry has assigned the plant protection and husbandry departments to cut by half the time and cost of import procedures.

Phat hopes that many more local and foreign investors will join the sector and support farmers to apply advanced technology to increase yields and turn out quality produce for sale at home and abroad.

By Minh Thu & Bich Hong - Vietnam News - March 27, 2016