Fargreen is a social enterprise aimed at building prosperous and sustainable farming communities in rural Vietnam and around the world. In 2014, it won the runner-up prize of €200,000 in the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge. We called founder and CEO Trang Tran to hear about how things are going and we asked her to share her insights and advice with our upcoming finalists.

Can you give us an update of how things are going with Fargreen?
“Everything is going really well, it has been a fun ride so far. After winning the award in 2014, we were able to realize a full business. Late February last year we launched our first products. Our first mushrooms left the market and are now in high-end stores, restaurants and we have a delivery service. The most important thing is that we were able to build a brand. We are known now as the first high quality mushroom product in the country.

 We help local rice farmers to reuse their agricultural waste instead of burning it. We use the rice straw to grow high quality mushrooms. Then, in return, we use the leftovers from the mushroom production as bio fertilizers for the rice and vegetable crops. The rice straws that are coming into the circle are higher quality and organic and enable us to close the loop, which for us is what it’s all about.”

What did the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge bring your business?
“It's not just the financial part, it’s also the network and the support. In the days before the final you get the chance to perfect your business idea and presentation. And also after the competition, the Postcode Lottery brought our team back to Amsterdam for the Green Challenge Deep Dive - an intensive 10-day booster program to get the finalists to the next level and be investor ready - which was a life-changing trip for us. We were lucky to meet some really great mushroom experts in the Netherlands and learn from their way of doing things. Did you know the Netherlands is one of the biggest mushroom exporters in the world? After that trip we changed how we grow our mushrooms to a more sustainable way and were able to improve the quality even further. We truly transform local rice and vegetable farming into a more organic, natural and chemical-free way. We are able to have a much bigger impact now.

After our presentation in Amsterdam there were so many people who came to talk to us and loved our idea, that it paved the way to work with all kinds of experts, scientists, and universities. We help them to increase their research quality and they help us to improve our system. It is no longer the simple model that I presented nearly three years ago. It has become a well thought out system, with a lot of real input, about production, distribution and branding. All the way from the field to the table.”

 What kind of advice do you have for future finalists?
“It is hard to put that into a few words! The whole experience was magical. To get to the final round of this competition is already a great achievement. Be prepared to learn and to get inspired. Be completely open and try to take full advantage of the whole package: the support, the learning, the extensive network of high quality people who are all so enthusiastic and willing to help your business develop further. Take it all in. For us, it opened up everything and our goal to scale up our model to all over the world where there is rice farming waste that gets fire burnt has become a feasible objective.” 

Trang Tran