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Close involvement of HAS University with newly-opened Fresh Academy in Vietnam

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The Fresh Academy in Vietnam has officially been launched. Dutch and Vietnamese partners have spent the past three years setting up this practical knowledge and training institute for the horticultural sector at various locations in Vietnam. They have trained coaches, designed curricula and teaching materials and developed a business case. On behalf of HAS International Projects (HIP), the HAS University of Applied Sciences’ Toon Keijsers was involved in organising the institute whose other Dutch partners were Wageningen University & Research, Lentiz Education Group, Demokwekerij Westland (horticultural innovation centre) and Kenlog (consultancy). Important partners in Vietnam were Fresh Studio, four agricultural universities and local companies.

Project completed

“The Fresh Academy project will soon be completed,” says Keijsers. “The institute needs to spend the next few years proving its contribution to the development of the horticultural sector in Vietnam. Six HAS lecturers went to Vietnam to provide training. They not only got to experience what it’s like to give training abroad, but also how to deal with the subject matter in an international setting. Furthermore, several students went on internships at Fresh Academy partners or took part in a study programme, with two IFA final year students conducting research into the cashew production chain in Vietnam.”

Why invest in Vietnam?

Why is Vietnam such an interesting country for setting up a project like this one? “It is a developing country and one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia,” explains Keijsers. “The country’s middle class is growing and these people can afford healthier food. Attention to food safety is increasing and Vietnamese companies are taking advantage of this trend. However, they lack the required knowledge and expertise, and this is where foreign companies can deliver added value; Rijk Zwaan, FrieslandCampina and De Heus from the Netherlands, for instance. For companies like these, it is also in their interests that Dutch and international students, as their future employees and professionals, are able to work in upcoming economies such as Vietnam.” That was also an important motive for Liz Chermin from our Board of Directors to be part of the trade mission to Vietnam undertaken by these companies, where she also got to meet the Fresh Academy partners.

New initiative Borderless Network

Since then, several partners, including HAS University of Applied Sciences, Wageningen University & Research, Lentiz Education Group, Agriterra and several Vietnamese partners, have now started a new initiative under the name of Borderless Network. This is a platform run by Groen Onderwijs (Green Education) in the Netherlands, focussing on strong cooperation with business and government in international projects. “This project builds on the work we have done with the Fresh Academy and aims to work on sustainable development of agriculture and horticulture in Vietnam,” explains Toon Keijsers. “Together we are investigating how education can support businesses (including agricultural cooperatives) by developing study programmes and training courses in this subject area.”

Expanding to other countries

If the Fresh Academy works, then Fresh Studio has the ambition of taking this concept to other countries in the region. HAS University of Applied Sciences may also be able to play a role in this. “For example, as one of the partners in the Borderless Network, we are also working in India and Indonesia. It would be wonderful if we could apply our experiences, knowledge and expertise in other Asian countries.”

Matching education and professional practice

The added value of HAS University of Applied Sciences in projects such as these lies in our close connections between education and professional practice. “There is a lot of interest from abroad in this concept. There is also a great deal of support within the HAS for participation in similar projects because we can put the knowledge gained there into practice in our own teaching, as well as continuing to improve connections between education and the profession, both nationally and internationally. This is intended to be a long-term collaboration.”