In the synergy of two generations—father and son—a transformative blend emerges, marrying tradition with technological innovation.

Moun Lyhoung, proprietor of Kampong Speu Mechanical (KSM) in the town of Chbamon in Kampong Speu province, spearheads this revolution. 

Transitioning from the traditional rice mill machines from his father’s era to today’s high-efficiency automatic rice mills, his journey symbolises progress and adaptability.

“In the 1980s and 1990s, my father shifted from machine making to focusing on mill server production,” he reflects.

The demand in the local service market, where prices are lower than imported machines, drives the production of these modern automatic rice mill machines.

In 2008, his father started making machines for local rice mills, laying the foundation for Lyhoung’s entry into the industry. 

After earning a bachelor’s degree in automotive mechanics from the National Polytechnics Institute of Cambodia (NPIC) in 2019, he brought automation expertise to the family business. 

He revamped traditional machinery by integrating code and programming, resulting in automated, modern machines.

“At 28, I’m excited that our machines efficiently handle multiple stages of rice production—drying, milling and processing. They can handle 15 to 40 tonnes of rice per hour based on customers’ demands,” Lyhoung tells The Post.

KSM’s machines harmonise local craftsmanship with global technology. Though some elements, like rice rollers, are imported, the core machinery—rice mills and cleaning baskets—is locally crafted. This fusion empowers the company to provide competitively priced options, distinctively tailored to meet the demands of Cambodian rice mills.

“We’ve designed our machines to grind and process rice for both local markets and export, meeting international standards, including those for Europe,” he shares.

He states that automatic rice mill machines are transforming rice processing, consolidating the vital stages of drying, milling and processing into one efficient operation. Also, local production affords convenient maintenance, repair and installation.

Global market journey

These machines mark a notable advance in agricultural technology, smoothly converting harvested rice into high-quality, market-ready grains. 

The process starts with the drying feature, fine-tuning the rice to the ideal moisture level to preserve its natural qualities. 

Next, the milling stage efficiently eliminates the husk, unveiling the smooth, white grains beneath. Finally, the rice undergoes a processing stage where it is polished and graded to meet rigorous quality standards.

“This innovation isn’t just technological progress; it represents the synchronous blend of tradition and modernity in agriculture,” Lyhoung says.

Lyhoung’s innovations maintain quality, cut waste and lower operational costs, shaping a new chapter in rice’s journey from fields to global markets. 

Despite technological leaps, a few challenges remain. Introducing these machines to new customers and managing initial technical issues demand patience and adjustment. However, the trust built by his father since the 2000s has paved the way for KSM’s products.

“When we set up the machine in the mill, we often encounter technical hitches. It needs periodic adjustments to ensure smooth operation. Dealing with such challenges is typical when installing new engines,” he says.

Lyhuong points out that while large-scale mills capable of processing 30 tonnes per hour are common in Cambodia, there’s a current scarcity of medium-sized machines.

Exploring the concrete outcomes of Lyhoung’s groundbreaking rice milling technology, the experiences of contented customers and flourishing businesses speak to the transformations being ushered in by his company. 

Cabinet of innovation

A noteworthy account comes from Ros Sopharith, CEO of Kampong Thom Rice Mill Limited. His mill, a key player in the nation’s rice market, capable of exporting to Europe and Asia, has realised substantial advantages from KSM’s innovations within his multi-million dollar facility.

He mentions that the automatic control cabinet created by KSM distinguishes itself with user-friendly design, cost-effectiveness and a quality that competes with foreign products.

This underscores Lyhoung’s technological prowess and its capacity to grasp and fulfil the needs of local businesses effectively.

“I opted for a locally crafted automatic control cabinet—user-friendly, more affordable and of equally high quality. Compared to Thai alternatives, ours is cost-effective and less troublesome in handling technical issues,” Sopharith tells The Post.

He’s integrated Lyhoung’s automatic packaging scale, streamlining operations and cutting labour costs. This success prompts him to consider more modernisation, potentially introducing robotic systems and placing his mill at the forefront of industry innovation.

These technological upgrades transcend the mill’s boundaries. With substantial support from a $2.21 million ADB loan, the mill is a cornerstone of the local economy. Purchasing thousands of tonnes of rice annually, it sustains local families, fostering livelihoods and community prosperity.

Kampong Thom Rice Mill’s success mirrors a broader trend in the Cambodian rice milling industry. As more mills adopt KSM’s technology, they reap similar benefits—heightened efficiency, lower costs and improved product quality. This, in turn, enhances the rice industry, boosting its competitiveness on the global stage.

Technology tailoring

Looking forward, Lyhoung envisions enhancing his machines further, aligning them with international standards and integrating robotic arms for tasks like rice packing.

He said that moving forward, his company aspires to manufacture rice packing machines with robotic arms to reduce the reliance on extensive labour.

His workshop serves as more than just a manufacturing site; it’s a vibrant learning environment where students can gain valuable hands-on experience. This is particularly vital for students aspiring to contribute to the industry through their dissertations and research projects. 

He invites local students studying automation and mechanical engineering to gain experience and conduct research at his workshop, demonstrating the significance of tailoring technology for Cambodia’s needs.

Engaging directly with technology and participating in real-world applications, these students develop a profound understanding and practical skills often beyond reach in a traditional classroom setting.

“I encourage students to explore job opportunities in factories, particularly rice mills, considering the expected rise in demand for rice in the future,” he suggests. 

“Regarding local machine manufacturing, I hope students will actively research and develop technology customised for local demands,” he adds.