Nguyễn Thanh Hùng is working on one of his products in a small workshop in his home in the southern province of Đồng Tháp's Hồng Ngự District.-- VNA/VNS Photo Chương Đài
Despite just a few years of schooling and with little in the way of formal training in mechanical engineering, Nguyễn Thanh Hùng from Hồng Ngự District in the Mekong Delta province of Đồng Tháp is nonetheless famed locally as the “inventor” of a whole host of unique farming machinery.
With a passion for exploration and study since he was a child, Hùng has created many types of machines that help raise agricultural production and ease the burden on farmers.
Though his “inventions” are not really known outside of the immediate area, many of them, such as sesame and morning glory seed threshing machines, have found favour among local farmers, particularly as they make the harvest that much easier.
Born into a large, poor family near the border with Cambodia, poverty forced Hùng to drop out of school after the second grade. He picked up work wherever he could to help his parents and siblings.
But after realising that such a life wasn’t going to give him or his family a better future anytime soon, he applied for a job at a local mechanical workshop and began repairing machinery. He was pleased with the change, as the job not only helped him earn a living but also gave him a livelihood after he learned what he could about mechanical engineering.
“I became familiar with machinery and mechanisation from working on machines all day every day, and I then started my own line of business,” Hùng said.
“My family were all farmers, so I understood the misery of work in the fields. It’s often said about farming that your ‘face is close to the earth while your back is against the sky’.”
Farmers are using the sesame threshing machine manufactured by Sáu Hùng mechanical workshop. The machine won second prize at a provincial scientific and technological contest in 2015. -- VNA/VNS Photo Chương Đà
It seemed to Hùng that he had to find a way to help lessen the load on farmers, which led him to start making his own machines a decade or so ago.
He first bought an old rice-threshing machine, and in his spare time took it apart and tinkered with it to learn how it worked, and then reassembled and upgraded it with more functions.
“Success never comes initially but it does come,” Hùng said wisely. Failure followed failure in those early days, but he never gave up.
His efforts were duly rewarded after he built a sesame seed threshing machine that surprised local farmers by reducing their time and labour by a whopping 70 per cent.
Not content, the “engineer” was keen to realise the full potential of drought-resistant crops such as morning glory, peanuts, and hybrid maize, which were also the target of a development project on agricultural restructuring in the Đồng Tháp.
At that time, Hùng said, there weren’t any seed threshing machines at all, so farmers had to use their hands to do the task and it took a lot of time and effort.
He imagined a machine able to separate the seeds quickly and easily, and began researching a range of various crops.
“I tried to learn about the different characteristics of different crops to make a machine that could be adapted to each one,” he explained.
“For example, morning glory has softer but longer stems than sesame and rice, so I had to revise many of the machine’s components to introduce different functions suitable to particular crops.”
Trần Văn Đáng, a farmer in Thường Phước Commune who has used Hùng’s morning glory seed threshing machine, said farmers could now yield 300kg of seeds per 1,000 square metres of land.
“Separating the seeds at harvest time had to be done by hand before and was a tough task,” according to Đáng. “Hùng’s threshing machine makes the job so much easier and saves farmers a lot of time.”
It previously took 15-20 days to separate 1,000sq.m of morning glory seeds, but the machine cuts the time needed to just a single day.
Hùng’s machines bear the brand name Sáu Hùng and have helped farmers in Hồng Ngự District be liberated from their farmland and manual exertions.
A number of his machines have also become familiar nearby, including in areas bordering Cambodia, and sell for VNĐ150-180 million (US$6,500-$7,700) each.
In its ten years, the Sáu Hùng mechanical workshop has made more than 500 machines and earned an average of VNĐ1.5-2 billion a year in revenue while creating jobs for five workers on incomes of around VNĐ5 million a month.
Nguyễn Thanh Hùng, a farmer and amateur engineer in the southern province of Đồng Tháp's Hồng Ngự District is locally known as "inventor" of many machines useful for agriculture in the local area. VNA/VNS PhotoChương Đài
Nguyễn Kỳ Phùng, director of the district’s agricultural service centre, said Hùng’s workshop leads the district in applying science and technology in agriculture.
“At a time when the area is facing a shortage of farm workers, especially for the harvest, mechanisation of farmland is an ideal solution,” Phùng said. “Machinery helps cut costs, raises productivity, and is in line with the modernisation of the agriculture sector.”
Hùng’s inventions have been duly recognised by local people and authorities.
His sesame seed threshing machine was certified as a typical rural industrial product in 2015 by the Đồng Tháp authorities and won second prize at the 13th provincial scientific and technological innovation contest.
Other machines continue to be honoured at provincial technical innovation contests in the fields of engineering, automation, construction, and transportation.
The prizes, Hùng said, gave him motivation to continue researching his next invention.
“To meet the increasing need for technological application in agriculture, I am trying to build new machines not only for harvesting but also for other farming processes, such as sowing and planting,” he added. VNS