Bui Tran Nhu Phuong

Solar Dryer Dome and the endorsement of the local government

In our turf of work, it is always a great pleasure to have a productive and close partnership with local government bodies. Nothing quite trumps the feeling of seeing a solution being realized in harmony of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the central government’s development plan and the local government’s priorities in improving the livelihood of the low-income communities through technology advancement. The cooperation between Covestro and Agitech in disseminating the solar dryer domes (SDD) in Vietnam is such a partnership.

Agitech (Center for Application of Science and Technology Progress) is an income-generating government agency under the management of Science and Technology Department of An Giang province, one of 13 provinces of the Mekong Delta in the Southern region of Vietnam. It supports the Department’s Director in collecting, analyzing information of science technology and environment; selecting achievements in science, technology, appropriate technological innovations for the province’s annual plan of science – technology and environment. The center also carries out the national and provincial study, research, experimental production; international cooperation projects or foreign sponsored projects. Agitech’s engineers search and implement science – technology service contracts to meet the demand of science – technology; professional training courses about science – technology management, information technology, repairing or supplying materials and equipment used in science – technology and environment activities. They also organize experimental production or adaptation of new products.

Note: In Vietnam, there is a Center for Application of Science and Technology Progress in every city or province, under direct management of the city’s/province’s Department of Science and Technology. The provincial Department of Science and Technology is of course, under the management of the Ministry of Science and Technology on national scale. The mission of these Centers is to search for and transfer practical technology to the residents of their own province based on its characteristics (climate, industries, etc.) Agitech is from An Giang province. Due to the geographic position of the province (sharing the border with Cambodia), it has been receiving a lot of attention from the Central Government in term of improving livelihood and applying technology into aquaculture and agriculture activities. Consequently, subsidy for farmers and fishermen has become available.

It all started when a lingzhi mushroom farming household approached the engineers of Agitech for an alternative solution to drying in the open air because of the constant rain. Aside from mushroom, the farmers also had rice production that they had to tend to; so they could not stay at home and watch over the drying of the mushroom all the time. This became a problem during the rainy season. Lingzhi mushroom is of very high monetary value in the market so they could not afford the risks of damaged products due to moisture-induced contamination.

Taking in the inquiry from the farmers, Agitech’s engineers started searching as they came across the solar dryer dome that had been installed in the neighboring province of Dong Thap during a previous Covestro’s public-private-partnership project called WeCare. They studied the design and came back with a consultation for the lingzhi mushroom farmers accompanied by a 30% subsidy for the installation of the SDD funded by An Giang province’s Department of Science and Technology.

At the time, Covestro’s Inclusive Business (IB) ASEAN was on a rigorous search for a highly motivated local partner to disseminate the SDD in Vietnam. More information on the SDD and what Covestro’s IB is doing in ASEAN could be easily found here. We found out about Agitech completely by chance through a random such on Google (long-live the Internet!). After a brief talk on the phone, we had our first meeting in Agitech’s office and both parties sealed the deal with a Memorandum of Understanding in March 2019.

Very briefly after the MoU signing, with Covestro’s IB ASEAN’s arrangement, Agitech’s engineers attended a technology transfer training course with Dr. Serm Janjai, the inventor of the SDD, at Silpakorn University, followed by an installation demonstration in the campus workshop.

Photo: Agitech's delegate and Dr. Serm Janjai (3rd from left), at Silpakorn University's campus
Photo: Agitech's delegate and Dr. Serm Janjai (3rd from left), at Silpakorn University's campus

August 2018, Agitech finished its first installation of the SDD in An Giang province and since then spread the word out to neighboring provinces. Under the province’s subsidy program, an SDD has been built for a community producing puffed rice paper (a combination between rice cracker and the ever popular Vietnamese rice paper) in Phu My commune. Another SDD is on the way as a part of the technology transfer agreement with Agitech counterpart in Hau Giang province (also one of the 13 Mekong Delta provinces).

Photo: Drying bánh phồng (puffed rice paper/cracker) in Phu Tan commune
Photo: Drying bánh phồng (puffed rice paper/cracker) in Phu Tan commune

In October 2018, Agitech and Covestro proudly presented the SDD in one of the biggest applied technology exhibitions organized annually in Vietnam. As Mr. Tran Van Tung, Deputy Minister of Ministry of Science and Technology; and Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Bao, Chairman of Vietnam Cooperative Alliance visited our booth and asked: “What is the latest applied solution here?”, Mr. Tang Phu An, Director of Department of Science and Technology, An Giang Province, did not miss one beat and pointed at the miniature model of the SDD. Watching the Deputy Minister listening closely to the explanation of the SDD’s functions and the benefits it could bring to the province’s low-income communities, we could not have been prouder.

Photo: Mr. Tang Phu An, Director of Department of Science and Technology, An Giang Province (in blue shirt) is explaining the mechanism of the SDD to Mr. Tran Van Tung, Deputy Minister of Ministry of Science and Technology (touching the SDD model); and Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Bao, Chairman of Vietnam Cooperative Alliance (right corner)
Photo: Mr. Tang Phu An, Director of Department of Science and Technology, An Giang Province (in blue shirt) is explaining the mechanism of the SDD to Mr. Tran Van Tung, Deputy Minister of Ministry of Science and Technology (touching the SDD model); and Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Bao, Chairman of Vietnam Cooperative Alliance (right corner)
Photo: Mr. Tran Van Tung, Deputy Minister of Ministry of Science and Technology, is examining the chili product dried with the SDD. To his left hand is Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Bao, Chairman of Vietnam Cooperative Alliance. At the far right corner is Mr. Tang Phu An, Director of Department of Science and Technology, An Giang Province
Photo: Mr. Tran Van Tung, Deputy Minister of Ministry of Science and Technology, is examining the chili product dried with the SDD. To his left hand is Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Bao, Chairman of Vietnam Cooperative Alliance. At the far right corner is Mr. Tang Phu An, Director of Department of Science and Technology, An Giang Province

The next step is to of course move forward with the popularization of the SDD to other parts of the country where it will help low-income communities in reducing their post-harvest loss and improving income.

Related links:

 

More information on the SDD

More information on Covestro's IB ASEAN in Vietnam

SDD and the IB model in Myanmar

 

General information inquiry about the SDD in Vietnam, please contact:

Ms. Bui Tran Nhu Phuong – phuong.bui@covestro.com

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