Mr Matsuo, 33, completed his university studies at a campus in Okasa, Japan three years ago, just prior to embarking on a trip to Da Lat to explore opportunities for his own start-up floral venture.
“With its year-round cool climate and fertile soil, I was confident that Da Lat, often referred to as the city of a thousand flowers, was the perfect spot for my business,” said Mr Matsuo.
Following up a friend’s advice, Mr Matsuo initially looked into and subsequently leased a greenhouse covering two hectares in the Village of Darahoa, approximately 27 km from Da Lat.
Now, just three short years later, the Japanese flower magnate’s business, Marine Agri Farm, is booming and blooming, each week producing 15,000-20,000 mums, which he airlifts directly to Japan in pre-cooled boxes.
With support from a local man, Nguyen Van Lam, the two initially spent a considerable amount of time assessing the domestic market and potential opportunities before settling on producing mums for export.
“Mr Lam’s support was indispensable,” said Mr Matsuo, he has great intellect having received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Literature from a Da Lat university. But he is also street smart and without his insights into the local culture we never could have gotten the business off the ground.
They decided to employ local Chill ethnic workers because of their good health and work habits. They taught them how best to cultivate mums and sent them to short-term training courses within Vietnam.
“We chose to produce 31 different varieties of mums from Japan and the Netherlands,” said Mr Matsuo, and were extra careful to select ones that are favourites in the Japanese market.
“We really felt that we wanted to build the largest flower operation in Vietnam,” said Mr Matsuo. Our goal was to nurture an enterprise that would be talked about as the best in Da Lat.
Even though I am Japanese, we chose English as the official language to set the stage for future expansion into the US market. I also tried to learn a bit of Vietnamese and K’Ho so that I could communicate better with local people and staff.
Mr Matsuo unveiled that a joint venture with other stakeholders is currently in the pipeline to expand production of flowers as well as the breeding and propagations arms of the business.
“We plan to expand operations and production by adding 30 hectares in May at a location near the Da Don Commune in the Lam Ha District of Lam Dong Province,” said Mr Matsuo.
“The farm will be much more technologically advanced than we are today, which should help boost both production and profits.”
“Who knows where we will go from there,” said Mr Matsuo.