It’s very difficult not to have a smile on your face while looking at Fargreen’s Postcode Lottery Green Challenge pitch (it takes less than 5 minutes, definitely worth a watch!). The founder and CEO, Trang Tran passionately describes her social enterprise, Fargreen. At Fargreen, they have been able to take two major world problems—poverty and pollution—and tackle them simultaneously with one solid business plan focused on using agricultural waste to produce mushrooms.
Inspired by the cradle-to-cradle approach, Fargreen has found a new life for rice straw (the “leftovers” after harvesting rice). Currently, farmers burn their rice straw leading not only to tons of pollution but also to health issues amongst the local community and even traffic accidents. In Vietnam, Tran’s home country, over 20 million tons of rice straw is burned every year, meaning that for four months of the year, Vietnam is completely covered in smog. Globally, about 200 million tons of wasted rice straw is burned.
Fargreen’s closed loop system looks like this: the wasted rice straw is used to grow mushrooms; the mushrooms can either be sold fresh immediately or dried in Fargreen’s processing plant and sold at a later stage; the waste from producing mushroom will then be recycled into bio-fertilizers which can be used to fertilize the land during rice-season. Rice is harvested twice a year, earning the average farmer about $900. By growing mushrooms as well a farmer can add four harvesting periods to the year and increase his income by 50 percent, essentially lifting him out of poverty.
Tran was the first in her family to go to college (MBA: Colorado University), and the first to leave Vietnam. Growing up she experienced the negative effects of rice straw burning first hand and was inspired to use Vietnam’s challenges as input for a sustainable business model. The geographical focus now is Vietnam, but Tran is hopeful to scale-up worldwide in the future.
Now who said poverty and pollution are too difficult to solve?
Be like Fargreen: “Go Far by Going Green!”
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