|Nguyễn Văn Hạnh, 32, founder of Hạnh Phúc (Happiness) Farm Produce Cooperative takes fibres from fresh pineapple leaves in Tân Thắng Commune, Quỳnh Lưu District in the central province of Nghệ An. — Photo tienphong.vn|
NGHỆ AN — A farmer is seeing his profits skyrocket after creating a pineapple growing co-op in his home town.
Nguyễn Văn Hạnh uses a combination of traditional methods mixed with technology to not only produce a sustainable fruit but also provide employment for more than 50 ethnic minority labourers.
And he makes sure to waste nothing, diversifying his farm into a textile company as well by creating handbags and garments from the fibres of the leaves.
Hanh started small back in 2015 creating the Hạnh Phúc (Happiness) Farm Produce Cooperative – and since then it has been all smiles in Tân Thắng Commune as his co-op grows from strength to strength.
He graduated from the University of Transport and Communications in Hà Nội in 2012, and worked on an offshore vessel for three years, Tiền Phong (Vanguard) newspaper reported.
Although the income was stable, Hạnh always wanted to do something useful for his hometown.
“The idea of running a cooperative, providing safe and clean farm produce for local people was born after I heard a lot of sad stories about people getting diseases after eating food contaminated with toxic chemicals,” he said.
Hạnh decided to quit his job and return to Nghệ An Province with a plan to set up his cooperative.
He spent all his savings purchasing 2.7ha of land and started to grow pineapples.
At first, his relatives showed strong opposition to his decision to quit a job to run a cooperative with numerous challenges.
But he was determined to carry out his plan.
Hạnh studied day and night to learn more about growing and taking care of pineapples in a sustainable way, mitigating the impacts on the surrounding environment.
“All things are difficult before they become easy,” he said.
“Every time I got discouraged, I thought about the reason why I started – bringing happiness for people. Making safe farm produce is good for people’s health and with a healthy body, there will be happiness. That is also why my co-operative is named Happiness."
Hạnh harvested the first batch of pineapples and received positive feedback from local traders.
He decided to buy more land to grow pineapples and today he harvests about 300 tonnes of the fruit each year.
Creating products from pineapple leaves
As a pineapple grower, Hạnh found that after each harvest, farmers spent a lot of money processing pineapple leaves, often using herbicides to dry the pineapple and then burn it, affecting their health and posing risks of forest fire, not to mention the potential damage to the environment.
After searching for ways to treat the leaves without polluting the atmosphere, he learned that in many countries growers separate the pineapple leaves and use them to make textiles.
At first, he used a hand brush to brush the pineapple leaves to extract the fibres. But the method was inefficient, so he asked some mechanics to create a fibre-separating machine.
He invested VNĐ50 million (US$2,200) to build the machine, which was clearly money well spent as it helps him separate fibres from three tonnes of pineapple leaves daily.
The machine’s capacity is equal to 20 manual labourers working each day.
Hạnh said every 100 kilos of pineapple leaves brings him two kilos of fibres.
He soon started to make products from the leaf fibres, including bags, hammocks and other handicrafts.
In September 2021, at the 12th Grand Sustainable Festival in Lucerne, Switzerland, Hạnh's bags made from pineapple leaves were warmly welcomed.
Not only environmental friendly and sustainable, they also bring a stable income for local people. From there, he got his first orders to bring his pineapple-leaf products to the world.
Hạnh won the Lương Ðịnh Của Award in 2021, an annual award sponsored by the HCM Central Youth Union and given to young people with outstanding achievements in manufacturing, trading, applying modern science, protecting the environment and setting up new rural lifestyles.
Hạnh’s project also belongs to the Top 10 projects of the 2021 Techfest Việt Nam’s contest and Top 9 agricultural start-up projects in 2021.
Techfest Việt Nam, organised by the Ministry of Science and Technology of Việt Nam since 2015, is the largest annual event for the innovative startup community in the country. — VNS