A middle school teacher in Vietnam has made a series of products namely essential oil, lipsticks, and skin cream from dragon fruit seeds.
“Initially, I could not find the right yeast for brewing, so the yeast failed to grow, leading to the discharge of 3,000 liters of decaying oil," said Tran Quoc Trong, a teacher of Tran Phu Middle School in Ward 7, Tan An City under Long An Province, southern Vietnam.
"Due to the failure, my family advised me to give up. At that time, I realized that mastering theory was not easy in practice.
"To produce a practical product from theory, oftentimes we have to learn from the beginning.
"As such, I thought that each product could only be successful at one stage, so I never stopped."
One Thursday at the beginning of this year, Trong had another teacher substitute for some physics and chemistry classes so that he could stay at home and prepare for the acceptance of a pilot project to turn out high quality dragon fruit seed oil under a contract signed by a company founded by Trong and the Long An Department of Science and Technology.
His home is located in Long Tri Commune, Chau Thanh District, known as the decades-old heart of the southwestern dragon fruit kingdom.
Essential oil created from scientific project worth over VND2 billion (US$85,000)
The technology transfer project valued at more than VND2 billion yielded good results and satisfied testers after they reviewed all processes, including seed removal, drying, oil extraction, and finished production.
Among the products are perfume, lipsticks, and skin cream made from dragon fruit seed oil.
“The project was evaluated as a success since these products can all be put up for sale,” Ho Thi Diep Thuy, deputy head of the Long An Department of Science and Technology, said when asked about Trong’s new project.
Lipsticks, skin cream processed from dragon fruit seeds
At a fair within the framework of the Tourism Week of Long An Province held in Tan An, Trong gifted these products to participants.
The bottles of essential oil, skin cream, and lipsticks made from dragon fruit seeds were first introduced to residents, sparking curiosity and wonder.
“Although dragon fruit oil still has a slightly greasy smell of seeds and is less fragrant than other kinds of essential oil such as grapefruit and melaleuca, overall, it is really pleasing. I am working to further improve the scent,” Trong laughed and honestly commented on his new product.
Many fair-goers offered to buy skin cream boxes, red and pink lipsticks, while more than 20 products on display were presented by Trong.
At that time, the 46-year-old teacher’s products were not registered for codes and design, but they were certified as ones that met the criteria of the technology transfer project.
It was also the period when the price of dragon fruit tumbled due to difficulties in export caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For one ton of peeled dragon fruits, a mere 20 kilograms of seeds are collected.
While many dragon fruit growers abandoned their farms and sold them off, Trong and his wife carefully refined dragon fruit to get more than one ton of seeds and dried them to make essential oil, skin cream, and lipsticks.
|Tran Quoc Trong’s lipstick, skin cream, and essential oil products made from dragon fruit seeds become attractive to participants at an exhibition of the Culture and Tourism Week in Long An Province, southern Vietnam. Photo: Son Lam / Tuoi Tre|
Relentless pursuit of experimental science
Growing up in Tan Tru District in Long An, a place where only rice was cultivated previously, Trong only came into contact with dragon fruit when he got married and resided with his wife’s family in Long Tri Commune nearly 20 years ago.
Ten years ago, the area of dragon fruit cultivation in Long An was expanded and the fruit gradually replaced rice.
Trong decided to pioneer creating numerous kinds of drinks from dragon fruit and beefing up the consumption of the fruit that replaced the rice in Chau Thanh District, after taking part in a discussion on how to ramp up the output, plus his chemical knowledge in everyday teaching at school.
Following the success of making drinks from dragon fruit, Trong continued to research drinks from mango, passion fruit, cocoa and pineapple that could be sold on the market.
Whenever facing trouble with a new product, he tried to arrange his teaching schedule to visit many places to explore new technologies in Ho Chi Minh City, Can Tho City, and An Giang Province.
As a result, he has been supported by multiple domestic and foreign companies and organizations in terms of funding and technology.
With extended relationships and newborn products, Trong has one more thing to tell his students.
He has never forgotten his students and his role as a teacher despite his passion for organic products.
“I succeeded in making these products thanks to the lessons in textbooks," the teacher said.
"Students know that I can do it, so they are obedient and try to learn more.
"Sometimes I think that if I did not work as a teacher, I might not be able to overcome challenging exercises to finish products."
With focus on useful products
Trong’s company has more than 10 permanent employees. With a wide variety of products, dragon fruit is fully-utilized at his plant.
“Their skin and discarded parts are being composted to make natural fertilizer," Trong affirmed.
“I am working on a project on processing and producing microbial fertilizer from dragon fruit peels, and have received support from an investor. If this project is successful, all parts of dragon fruit can be turned into the products for sale.”
During his years of tinkering with research, Trong said that all the products he pursued must be useful, thereby increasing the consumption of abundant farm produce in Vietnam.
“In principle, a process can produce many different products, but usually, I do not let my attention wander. This is also the problem that many people with a passion for research and experimentation often encounter,” said Trong.
Whenever seeing an opportunity to make commercial products, Trong carefully studies the needs of customers before trying his hand at it.
Apart from continuing making dragon fruit products to expand their reach, Trong is planning another project.
“If you want to expand production, you must have strong financial health," he said.
"I am getting permission to implement a project on restoring jute cultivation in Thanh Hoa District, Long An Province.
"This land was a jute area in the past.
"Weak consumption of jute forced farmers to switch to other crops, but they also faced several challenges.
"When put into practice, my project will do wonders for the community.”
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