|Innovation: Chuong (second from left) introduces one of his sowing machines. — Photo cuuchienbinh.com.vn
by Ha Nguyen and Kim Anh
Barefoot farmer Nguyen Hong Chuong, 39, in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong's Lac Lam Commune has invented a number of machines to help farmers.
His inventions include machines which pack earth into pots or plastic bags for farmers to use while selling saplings; a machine to grind humus; a machine to sow, and among others.
Born to a poor family of 10 children, Chuong was the youngest and had to drop out of school in eighth grade to help his parents in the field and do other work. He also had to collect and sell waste bottles to earn a living.
In 2003, he married a girl in his commune.
"I can never forget the day my wife gave birth to our first child. I had no money to pay the hospital charges. I was forced to ask many of my neighbours for money, but all were very poor. I was very confused.
"Finally, the owner of a vegetable garden lent me VND700,000, but also asked me to work for him later," Chuong recalled.
After his child's birth, Chuong worked in vegetable fields to repay his debt and feed his family.
"While spraying insecticides for a farm owner near my house, I asked myself why farmers don't use a sprayer with a longer spout that will not only protect their health but also increase their productivity.
"The question stayed in my mind all day and night. Finally, I started making a sprayer with a spout which was thrice the length of the old one. People were very surprised when they saw me working. The new tool helped to reduce my work time to less than 2 hours from 8 hours a day in a large vegetable garden," said Chuong.
"After several months, I showed it to people and received much appreciation from farmers and leaders in Lam Dong Province," Chuong told Viet Nam News.
Nguyen Minh Tam, deputy director of the Provincial Department of Science and Technology, said he highly valued Chuong's efforts at inventing a number of useful farm machines without ever being trained in a school.
"Lam Dong has many such inventors. They have different ideas but have a common point: their improvements and inventions are simple and affordable compared with the imported ones," Tam said.
Following the example of such inventors, Chuong spent time thinking about a seed-sowingmachine.
He recalled that in 2005, he had gone to a nursery to buy young trees. He had seen that many labourers sow the seeds in the field manually by putting them in a plastic bag and then making a hole in it.
Chuong thought of inventing a seed-sowing machine. "I saw the operation of a bottle-capping machine and a packing equipment on TV and kept thinking of such a sowing machine. I tried to design it while looking for materials to build it," he said.
But his biggest problem was that he was short of money. "I did not have much money though I needed about VND40 million (US$1,900) to buy materials. That was a very big amount for me. I asked my brother to mortgage his house to a bank to borrow money," he recalled.
After working for several days and nights to make the machine, it was ready by the end of 2006. Chuong's machine could do the work of 12 labourers.
In 2008, Chuong's vacuum sowing machine was awarded the Young Inventor of Viet Nam certificate by the Viet Nam Union for Science and Technology Associations.
Later that year, he was given the Luong Dinh Cua Prize (given in the name of Viet Nam's famous agronomist) for his invention.
Chuong's machine is exported to some countries. "We receive so many orders at the same time that we cannot meet the increasing demand," he said.
In 2011, he invented a machine that piles up earth in styrofoam trays to grow flowers or plant young trees. It costs only VND28 million ($1,333), compared with imported machines which cost thrice the amount.
Farmer Ngo Dinh Thuy in HCM City, who bought Chuong's machine, said its automatic operations, with a capacity of filling 840 styrofoam trays per hour, can do the work of seven to eight labourers. "The machine is an effective aid for my farm."
The machine received the third prize at the National Congress for Young, Intelligent People in Ha Noi.
Chuong recalled that a number of foreign experts on agricultural machines asked him about his machine's principle at several international exhibitions.
"I told them that I didn't know anything about it because I didn't have any training at school. I could not present it in theory but I could tell them about my understanding and my work," said Chuong.
In addition, Chuong and his brothers designed a machine that can pack earth into 1,200 pots per hour to supply flower companies in Da Lat. Each machine costs about $6,000.
Since 2011, Chuong's company has been exporting 100 earth packing machines to Laos, Malaysia, Taiwan and China every year. The machine can pack about 13,000 to 15,000 bags per day.
Chuong's workshop earns billions of dong per year and provides stable jobs to many labourers at a monthly salary of VND4 million to 6 million each.
Last year, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung gave Chuong a certificate for his invention.
Apart from inventing machines, Chuong can also play many musical instruments such as the guitar, organ and saxophone. "My father, who has handed down his musical talent to us, said music helps to relax after hard work," Chuong said, adding that he has a large room near his workshop where he plays music. — VNS