Growing demand for coconuts pushed this co-operative chairman to invent a machine that can break open the thick-shelled fruit in far less time than the standard method. Khoa Chien and Giao Hoa report.
Le Tan Ky is the Chairman of the VietGap co-operative in the southern province of Ben Tre, which provides pomelos and coconuts for domestic and foreign markets. He has also earned a reputation for inventing an automatic coconut-shelling device. These machines have proved their worth by making production more efficient and replacing traditional methods which were unsafe and slow.
"I dropped out of school for military service, and then I left the army to continue my studies. I had the opportunity to try various jobs in many places. In 2009, I decided to return to my homeland to get involved in the sale of pomelos and coconuts to buyers in HCM City," says Ky.
As things settled down, Ky started to receive more and more orders, but he was unable to process them quickly enough because everything was done by hand.
The dilemma pushed him to invent a coconut sheller. After days of pondering and experimenting with different ideas, Ky finally completed his machine. At the end of 2011, his coconut sheller was finally finished. The machine is 1.2m high with two knives. The coconut is placed on six fixed pointed heads, and with two sharp twists, the shell falls off.
According to Ky, the main advantage is the speed of the machine.
"It can cut open a coconut in 30 seconds. A machine costs VND15 million, much cheaper than those imported from foreign countries," adds Ky.
Thick-skinned: The new machine makes quick work of the durable coconut. The birth of the device has enabled his workshops to overcome the shortage of workers and handle more orders. Ky has also registered to copyright his invention, and he's excited by the interest he has received.
"I have sold 13 machines in Viet Nam and two more overseas. It was really unexpected. I only regret one thing: I don't have enough money to produce them in bulk at the moment, I am only able to make one or two at a time.
Cu Van Thanh, Director of the Luong Quoi Co Ltd, has bought two of the machines.
"We have only used them for a short time so it's hard to evaluate their effectiveness. However, the initial results are good and it takes us half the time to shell the coconuts than it does by hand, enabling us to meet our orders with foreign partners," he said.
Ho Vinh Sang, Chairman of the Ben Tre Coconut Association, spoke highly of Ky's invention and his commitment.
"The annual coconut output of Ben Tre is 60 million. Farmers depend on different varieties of coconut, and each has its different costs, so they must focus on the kind of fruit the market needs."
"Domestic entrepreneurs have made deals to export green coconuts which bring high profits, but that means a lot of hard work. I hope this machine will speed up the process, but I still think a few adjustments are needed to make it work more effectively," says Sang.
(COCOMMUNITY, VOL. XLIV NO. 5, 1 May 2014)