|Saving time: Farmer Dinh Cong Vien processes corn seeds in his multi-purpose machine at his house in the northern province of Nam Dinh. — VNS Photo Van Dinh
A rural inventor spent years trying to make a machine that would split corn grains and save his family the arduous task. He came up with a device that will split half a tonne of corn grains per hour, equivalent to 15 people splitting them by hand all day and night. Van Dinh
For the past 30 years, Dinh Cong Vien, 84, has worked to innovate new agricultural machinery in the northern province of Nam Dinh. The machines he has devised now contribute to increasing farmers' labour productivity.
Vien was born in a poor family in Kim Bang District's Kha Phong Commune. Before joining the army, he spent only one month in a compulsory mass education programme to learn how to put letters together to make words and spell them.
After the country was liberated, he left the military, wandered through provinces and did odd jobs to earn his living. In 1985, Vien returned home with the hope of living and working in peace and contentment. However, everyday working in the paddy fields made him realise the hardship of farmers. The thought came to him that "with the power available, why don't we try to use machines instead of our brawn to farm?"
He recalled: "I often saw my wife and children spend a sleepless nights splitting maize seeds so hard that their fingertips started bleeding. At that time, I decided to make a seed-pitting machine to reduce their strain."
He started to invent the appliance in 1988. As his first step in figuring out how to make it, he removed the parts of a rice thresher. Then Vien added bent hooks, created a lid and tried to operate the new machine. However, when he put maize cobs in one side of the machine, they came out on the other side still with seeds. His first invention was a complete failure.
Members of his family advised Vien to stop when they saw him losing money and not making any progress. He ignored their words, explaining "I think in the beginning, things are always hard. The most important thing is that we dare to face them. I worked during the day and studied in the evenings to learn by myself how to make the machine."
His efforts were eventually rewarded. His machine could separate half a tonne of maize grains per hour, equivalent to 15 people splitting them by hand all day and night. It saved time and labour force.
Not stopping there, the farmer continued to study to add more functions to the machine. He drew a draft of parts and put them together. By 2004, the machine had four functions: separating maize grains from the cob, buffing soybeans, seeding rice and shelling ground nuts. It was operating as a complete success. The machine could thresh rice seeds and soybeans gathered from 1,000 square metre area in one hour, 20 times faster than doing it by hand.
In 2010, he researched once again to add another function: buffing green peas. Information of the multi-purpose machine started to spread. People from nearby cities and provinces, such as Ha Noi, Thanh Hoa and Thai Binh, have since come to his house to learn from him as well as buy these machines.
It now takes him three weeks to make a machine, sold to customers for VND6-7 million (US$280-330). To date, he has sold nearly 100 machines.
"The cost to buy parts of the machine is nearly the same as its selling price. Though I don't earn much from selling it, I still feel very happy. My machines help farmers to produce and harvest. That's the greatest happiness for me," Vien said.
His machine has been displayed at the exhibition of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's headquarters and at agriculture fairs nationwide. In 2011, he was awarded a third prize in a nationwide contest and many certificates of merit from the Ministry of Science and Technology.
Nguyen Xuan Hoang, a neighbour living near his house, said: "Since acquiring Vien's machine, we don't have to spend days and nights pitting ground nuts and maize. We admire him a lot."
Vien has invented other machines for grinding rice into flour, sowing soybeans, and doing other farm work. Each is worth VND500,000-3 million ($24-140).
To Vien, the pleasure lies in creating farm tools to save human energy and time. — VNS