by Duy Hau-Lan Dung
|Revolutionary: Ha Thanh Vinh picks coffee beans using his handmade machine which is lightweight and easy to handle. It includes two 54cm plastic bars and an electric motor, with rollers, rorating with a speed of 1,250 rounds per minute. — File Photo
Y Xuenh Enuol from Cu Ebur Commune in the Central Highland province of Dac Lak finds it difficult to harvest coffee on his one hectare field due to a lack of workers.
However, since buying a coffee-picking machine made by 47-year-old Ha Thanh Vinh, his life has become much easier.
"At first, I didn't believe in his invention because we used a machine to pick coffee before. However, the trees lost branches, which decreased yield, and by using Vinh's machine, I've managed to counter the problem. Its output equals that of four workers a day," the farmer says.
Apart from Y Xuenh, hundreds of farmers have benefited from the hand-made machines. Visiting Vinh's house on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street in Buon Ma Thuot City, we witness many people waiting to purchase ones of their own.
According to the designer, the machine weighs only 3kg, uses 6v and 12v batteries and runs for one day. It includes two 54cm plastic bars and an electric motor, with rollers, rotating with a speed of 1,250 rounds per minute, making coffee beans fall into baskets below.
Vinh adds that advantages include its lightweight, ease of use and reach.
Le Dang Tuong from Krong Buk District's Pong Drang Town says: "Using this machine, I can pick nearly one tonne of coffee everyday. It has saved me a lot of time and effort."
During the post-war period (1975-86), Vinh came to understand the difficulties farmers face, among these the deficiency of agricultural tools. He dreamt of inventing a centrifugal pump after seeing plantation water pumps near his house. He left Buon Ma Thuot high school because his family could not afford his study fees, attending a vocational training school to learn electro mechanics instead. During his studies, he bought water pumps and sold them to local farmers to earn money. This helped him to open his own mechanics shop named Vinh Long in 1986.
In the period 1990-95, he invented a pump that weighed only 25kg and ran on less fuel than its competitors. In 2009, Dac Lak People's Committee Chairman Lu Ngoc Cu awarded him a certificate of merit for his efforts.
Accidentally watching a video clip of an Indian coffee-picking machine, he decided to adapt its design to suit conditions in Viet Nam. Three years later, in 2011, he produced nearly 2,000 such machines.
"Coffee beans in Buon Ma Thuot are big and firm and have high yields which are different from those in India. So I increased the rolling speed and shortened the bars," Vinh said.
"I wrote a notebook on the picking process. Many farmers own machines, but don't know how to use them. I also instruct them on how to pick coffee beans when they buy products at my shop."
Every time customers highlight a problem with the machine, he improves it straight away. Based on a complaint, he created a relay pack to protect a switch to keep it from breaking.
He has sold more than 500 machines at VND2.5 million (US$121) each.
People are surprised to learn that Vinh has never registered copyright for his inventions.
"I want to do something new to help farmers do their work. I prefer doing research to doing business," he explained with a smile. — VNS