US farm management company, Stevia Corp, has signed an agreement with a Vietnamese research institute to strengthen knowledge of stevia cultivation and crop management to drive production in the country.
The agreement is with the government funded National Institute of Medicinal Materials (NIMM), which is based in the capital Hanoi and works in research and development into medicinal plant resources.
NIMM will facilitate Stevia Corps studies into the plant and its extracts, providing access to land and facilities with specialised analysis equipment.
George Blankenbaker, president of Stevia Corp, told FoodNavigator-Asia that research into stevia crop management is vital to attract investment for local farmers.
“By clearly defining and documenting the correct protocols for growing stevia, we intend to prove its economic viability at the grower level and then provide farm management expertise to grower partners,” Blankenbaker said.
He noted that research can lead to agricultural strategies which add substantial economic benefits by increasing yields and quality while cutting production costs.
Most Asian countries are still agrarian societies, he said, with most of the rural population living at poverty level with little formal education, so further research will be valuable.
“We remain focused on agronomic improvements from development of new strains, propagation techniques, nursery protocols, field protocols including intercrop efficiencies, harvest and drying methods and post-harvest logistics,” Blankenbaker said.
Competition does not predominantly come from other stevia growers, he said, as “the demand for high quality stevia is far bigger than any one single grower at this stage of industry development.”
“The real competition is alternative crops. The most competent farmers grow the most economical crops feasible for their land,” he added.
Stevia Corp works with a technical partner, Agro Genesis, which Blankenbaker noted enables inputs for procedures to be created.
Agro Genesis has developed a sustainable and chemical-free farming solution for stevia crops that uses micro suspension technology to produce fertilisers that increase crop yield and quality.
“The team at Agro Genesis has extensive expertise in agricultural development and agribusiness techno-marketing,” Blankenbaker said.
“The company is very pleased that NIMM has a mutual desire to support the research and development of stevia in order to meet the growing international demand for stevia products and the resultant opportunity to provide a new economic stimulus for Vietnam,” he added.