Young engineer creates low-cost crop drones

July 13, 2022 - 09:29
Nguyễn Văn Thiên Vũ is determined to keep building drones that spray pesticides to help farmers.

Nguyễn Văn Thiên Vũ with one of his crop drones. — Photo: Nguyễn Văn Thiên Vũ

HUẾ — Nguyễn Văn Thiên Vũ's childhood was spent in the rice fields, and he is determined to keep building drones that spray pesticides to help farmers.

Born and raised in Huế, from a young age, Vũ was familiar with the fields and used to help his family harvest rice and play on the winding roads leading to the rice fields.

Having witnessed the hardships of farmers, the young man wanted to do something to help them and the development of the country's agriculture.

As an alumnus of Hồ Chí Minh City University of Technology, Vũ was passionate about technology research.

During his student years, he saw the movie "Three Idiots" where there was a character who also studied drones. The film inspired Vũ to create his own drones.

"If they can do it, we can do it," said the aspiring student.

In 2012, Vũ and a group of friends founded a research and development company on drone technology, focusing on camera drones.

He soon met a Western investor in 2015, who asked Vũ to try and attach a pesticide bottle to the drone.

Feeling inspired, Vũ rushed to research the technology, but lady luck did not smile on the enthusiastic young man, and his project met failure after failure.

Vũ encountered criticism, mostly from older generations of farmers who were unfamiliar with technology and prejudiced against young people inexperienced in agriculture.

However, Vũ kept his enthusiasm and carried on.

“There are days when I stay in all day and stay up until morning in the lab with my colleagues to do research,” said Vũ.

However, after successfully researching and manufacturing the drones, the product was still not ready for the market.

Physically, financially and emotionally exhausted, Vũ decided to return to Huế to work.

However, drone technology still haunted Vũ so much that he researched it simultaneously while doing his job.

After a sabbatical, Vũ returned to his passion for drones in 2018, when he restarted and brought his crop drones to farmers in the Western region.

The first steps, however, were extremely difficult.

He brought his drone to attend local seminars, but farmers rejected his proposals.

However, knowing what he wanted and understanding the path he was choosing, Vũ remained confident in the project.

To gradually approach and create trust with farmers, he persuaded open-minded ones with large farming areas to experiment and use his drones.

He asked farmers with a large area of ​​about 100 hectares to try his drones to spray pesticides on only a one-hectare piece of land.

"If results are not achieved, you will be adequately compensated," Vu assured the farmers.

His team's hard work eventually paid off when the test results were positive and convinced farmers to change their minds.

Vũ understands that bringing modern techniques to traditional agriculture and changing people's farming ways is extremely difficult and takes a long time, but the harder the challenge, the more he wants to face it head-on.

In the future, in addition to the function of spraying, fertilizing, and spreading seeds, he and his colleagues also want to develop new functions for drones.

One is to create a drone device capable of drawing plant index maps and creating a database to analyse, diagnose, and cure plant diseases.

For example, the plane takes pictures of a large farming field and, through analysis, measures the health status of each crop area, and conducts zoning for effective treatment.

His company's drone products are now present in more than 40 provinces and cities and have been applied to over 3 million hectares of crops from 2018 to 2021.

The largest market is still in the Mekong River Delta, especially in the four provinces of Long An, Đồng Tháp, An Giang and Kiên Giang.

That success, however, is not the end goal of Vũ and his associates, though it has made him proud.

"Some young people don't know what they like and don't know which direction to go in. If you have the opportunity, use all your knowledge and skills to work in the best way. Don't just do the job well enough, complete the assigned work excellently and don't be afraid to take on more work, and everything will be sorted out," said Vũ. — VNS