Friday, September 19, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Local researcher hopes to channel superfruit into an economy for small Vietnamese growers

By
From page A18 | May 04, 2014 |

Fishrock1W

Le Vuong founded Fishrock Labs to try to create a market for gac, a bright red fruit grown in Vietnam that is rich in beta-carotene and other nutrients. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

Tapered glass bottles filled with viscous orange-red liquid clink on a brown wooden shelf on the second floor of the Davis Roots headquarters.

Right now, they don’t look like much — their labels aren’t sleek, some of the other products next to them don’t yet have names. But the marketing will come, and with them, Le Vuong, hopes to jump-start an economy.

The bottles are filled with gac oil — or as Vuong calls it, redmelon oil. Rich with nutrients like β-carotene and backed by science that shows its health potential, Vuong founded Fishrock Labs, a gac-based food and cosmetic startup. She hopes her products will create demand for gac, opening up a market for small growers in northern Vietnam.

If they grow the fruit to sell, she thinks they will also grow it to eat, as rice or oil. High in β-carotene, this could potentially help naturally solve a vitamin A deficiency — the leading cause of childhood blindness — since the body breaks down β-carotene breaks into two vitamin A molecules.

Before Vuong graduated from UC Davis in 1997, she was a kid in Saigon. She grew up fairly privileged, she said, but saw the effects poverty had on her classmates.

“I witnessed a lot of problems, where (with) just a small infection … sometimes people died.”

Vuong came to the U.S. for college, but returned home for her research. During her doctorate, she helped UCD professors Carl Keen and Louis Grivetti collect a variety of native fruits and vegetables from the Hai Duong province in northern Vietnam. When they analyzed its nutritional value, gac had the highest levels of β-carotene, scoring better than tomatoes or carrots, Western nutrient powerhouses. Neither are common parts of the Vietnamese diet.

“I never liked the idea of an intervention — introducing something that we have here into their diet,” Vuong said, citing golden rice or β-carotene pills as examples.

Instead, Vuong set up a clinical trial that showed gac provided more β-carotene than synthetic vitamins. However, because the villages had little access to refrigeration, people could only receive the health benefits when the fruit was harvested in the winter.

To solve this problem, she designed a hydraulic oil press at the UCD Food Technology Pilot Plant with the help of David Paige and returned to Vietnam to squeeze out 100 liters of oil. The villagers used the oil for cooking, as a moisturizer, and for wound treatment. But the farmers wouldn’t grow gac because there was no one to sell it to.

With Fishrock, she hopes to change that. Along with β-carotene, the fruit has high levels of omegas 3, 6 and 9 — potentially making the oil a vegan replacement of fish oil. With her line of cosmetics — hand creams and lip balms — and edible oils, Fishrock aims to singlehandedly cultivate a gac market.

“These projects I see that try to help developing countries often end up supporting big corporations,” she said. “It is very easy for a company to focus on the bottom line, and to forget the goal they had at the starting line.”

Currently, the company is still looking for funding, starting with the crowdsourcing website Indiegogo. Vuong has a team of volunteers helping her get Fishrock off the ground.

“We’re definitely putting some sweat equity into it,” said Nick Chladek, a UCD MBA graduate helping Vuong. “The more we get (fundraising), the more we can scale our product.”

Their fundraising campaign will go live this week. Vuong hopes to raise at least $50,000.

— Reach Elizabeth Case at ecase@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8052.

Comments

comments

Elizabeth Case

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Grant means new push for moving tracks out of town

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Some say council needs to reconsider MRAP

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

    UC to create $250 million venture capital fund

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A1

     
    School district may redevelop downtown site

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1

     
    Master Gardeners share their wisdom at free workshops

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

    Scots vote to stay in UK

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    France strikes Islamic State group’s depot in Iraq

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Man faces arson charge in huge California wildfire

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    DUI suspected in crash

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

    Volunteers sought to make veggie bags

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Storyteller will draw on music, dance

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Woodland Healthcare offering flu shots

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Putah Creek Bike Path to close temporarily

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Little Free Libraries open at Montgomery

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A3

    Project Linus seeks donations

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Rabid bat found at Holmes Junior High

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Students invited to apply for Blue & White grants

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Halloween costume sale benefits preschool

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Telling tales, on ‘Davisville’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Register to vote by Oct. 20

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Free workout class set at library

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Explorit: Lots of ways to be a volunteer

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    Sierra Club remembers longtime walker

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    DHS Classes of 1954 and 1955 will hold 60th reunion

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Nonprofits can get DCN’s help

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Davis maps available at Chamber office

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Need a new best friend?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Reception benefits endangered gorillas

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

     
    Downtown history tour planned in October

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    Sutter Farmers Market offers local goods

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8 | Gallery

     
    Wolk applauds approval of stronger rules for olive oil

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

    Davis hosts its own climate change rally

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

     
    Qigong classes available for heart health

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    .

    Forum

    Sick of being the bad guy

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Cheers and Jeers: Not the end of the rainbow

    By Our View | From Page: A6

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

     
    Return to previous plan

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Save the ‘pine cone place’

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Affirm our community values

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Project has safety risks

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Learn more about Paso Fino

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Educate homeless with dogs

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

     
    .

    Sports

    Blue Devil volleyballers hold off Herd

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Aggies’ new energy could be scary for Big West

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

    No rest for the weary: Aggie TE Martindale busy on and off the field

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Devils hope the light bulb turns on at Edison

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    River Cats and Giants sign two-year deal

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Take Zona and Bama this week

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: B2

    Mustangs are no match for DHS boys in water polo

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

     
    A’s slide continues as Rangers sweep

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

    .

    Features

    Name Droppers: Awards keep coming for UC Davis retiree

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Business

    Redesigned 2015 Escalade remains breed all its own

    By Ann M. Job | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Carol L. Walsh

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Friday, September 19, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: A10

     
    .

    Real Estate Review

    Featured Listing

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER1

    Professional Services Directory

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER2

    Taylor Morrison

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER3

    Malek Baroody

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

    Norcal Land

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER5

    Robin Garland

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER6

    Karen Waggoner

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

    Dana Hawkins

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

    Martha Bernauer

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

    Joe Kaplan

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

    Lynne Wegner

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

    Remax

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

    Melrina A Maggiora

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER10

    Wells Fargo Home Mortgage

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER11

    Julie Leonard

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER11

    Coldwell Banker

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER12

    Kim Eichorn

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER14

    Lyon Real Estate

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER15

    Julie Partain

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

    Jamie Madison & Associates

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

    Marcelo Campos

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

    Bob Bockwinkel

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

    Juan Ramirez

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

    Kim Merrel Lamb

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

    Chris Snow

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER18

    James Hanna

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER18

    Raul Zamora

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER19

    Susan von Geldern

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER19

    Travis Credit Union

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER20

    Jamie Madison

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER21

    Karen Waggoner

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER21

    Lisa Haass

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER22

    Tracy Harris

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER22

    First Street Real Estate

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER24