TTO – Given the risks of COVID-19 spread at public gatherings, Mr Hoang Tuan Anh (aged 35) had invented an automatic rice distribution machine which was called “RICE ATM”.

On April 7th, Mr. Nguyen Van Manh (aged 68), who worked as a lottery retailer in District 11, approached the signboard that says "Automatic rice distributor for people in need", grasped a plastic bag and timidly pressed a button. A stream of white rice flowed from the plastic tube into the bag. Looking relaxed, Mr. Manh took the rice bag out of the ATM, leaving room for the next person who was lining up two meters away from him.

"I had received donated rice before but this is the first time I used this automatic device. The staff here said when we run out of rice, we can always come back for more so we don’t have to worry about the shortage during this epidemic season," the lottery retailer, who became unemployed because Covid-19, said.

The automatic rice distributor of Mr. Tuan Anh, Director of an electronic lock company on Vuon Lai Street, Tan Phu District has been operating at full capacity for the past two days. The owner of the "Rice ATM " machine shared that since the beginning of COVID-19 epidemic, he had seen many individuals and organizations who donated gifts, rice, instant noodles ... to the poor. However, mass gathering and direct delivery would easily give way to COVID-19 to spread. 

People now only need to press the button to received donated rice from the ATM
People now only need to press the button to received donated rice from the ATM – Photo: Diep Phan

Given his previous experiences and the advantage of equipment available in his electronic lock business, Mr. Tuan Anh and three technical staff took only one day to create the machine. "The situation was quite emergent, we couldn’t order parts from anywhere, so I removed the motor from the company's lock testing machine to make this rice generator," Mr Tuan Anh mentioned.

"Rice ATM" was quite simple, it includes an automatic rice dividing system, a camera and buttons controlled through an application on smart phone. When someone in front of the camera presses the button, the valve automatically opens, a rice quantity of about 1.5 kg from the tank flows down the pipeline. Tuan Anh also installed additional speakers to guide people, a tank to catch rice, and a gauge ... Each ATM station costs more than VND 10 million.

Thanks to the smart phone application, staff can easily classify rice recipients through a camera on the machine. It would recognize people’s face, and the duty officer would detect those who come back several times. On that case, his staff would press the "off" button to prevent the rice from flowing and turn on the speaker to notice and prevent the action. Each day, Mr. Tuan Anh assigns three employees who work in three shifts to take care of the ATM.

Using the "rice ATM", the givers and the receivers would not need to have direct contact. To maintain a good order, Mr. Tuan Anh had installed cameras around the rice distribution area, marking sure people keep distance from each other. Hand sanitizer gel was placed next to the rice collecting basin for people to wash their hands before taking rice.

The machine is operational 24/24, avoiding focus on one recipient at a time. The upper rice container has the capacity of holding 500 kg of rice. When the container runs out of rice, the app would send a notice to the staff on duty. 

People lining up for their turns. ATM operational all day
People lining up for their turns. ATM operational 24/24. – Photo: Diep Phan

Initially, the company intended to deliver 500 kg a day, but the first day ended up with one ton. On the second day, many people and organizations donated rice to contribute to Tuan Anh’s meaningful work.

Tuan Anh’s plan is to run the rice ATM until the end of the epidemic. With personal and company’s funding, he wishes to make another 100 rice ATMs to support the people in need.

"There are many people in bad need of rice at the momen, so I hope to receive more support from the community," Tuan Anh said.


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