Agricultural sector in Sarawak poised for better outcomes through digital changes, says expert


THE agriculture sector in Sarawak will experience drastic changes over the next five years with the application of smart farming, in line with the state’s vision in transforming its economy and being in the forefront of the digital world.

IBM Research Asean business development programme director Dr Sachin Gupta said the state has great potential in the agriculture sector because the land is rich in minerals, and has good rainfall and water supply for crop growth.

“With technology using the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data, it can help farmers operate and maintain their irrigation equipment remotely, as well as help them monitor the moisture, growth and soil pressure levels.

“It also helps increase productivity and farming. With smart agriculture and using the latest technology, it can help farmers identify problems that cause damage to their crops,” he said, adding that the transformation is also in line with the vision of Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

Gupta was speaking at the two-day Sarawak International Digital Economic Conference 2019 at the Borneo Convention Centre in Kuching yesterday.

He said smart farming technology could not only be a catalyst to increase quantity, quality and sustainability, but could also make the agricultural sector more cost-effective when information on the crops has been recorded in the system.

He added that such technology is also a mechanism to overcome the problems often encountered in agriculture such as pest attacks that could damage plants on a large scale.

Gupta said many small farmers could not accept changes which require them to be technologically well-versed in order to aid in increasing their produce.

“However, with their spirit and desire in wanting to change towards modern and smart agriculture, I believe the state’s agricultural landscape will change and, at the same time, become the world’s leading agricultural producer by meeting international market demands,” he said.

Abang Johari recently said the state government had started implementing smart farming in Kuching by using IoT devices to monitor its agricultural land and to improve crop productivity.

He added that the state had taken some early action in advancing its digital economy.

“To expedite the journey, Sarawak will work with several international digital technology players by signing several memoranda of understanding during the conference.

“These strategic partners will assist Sarawak in terms of researching new digital initiatives to support the development of the Sarawak digital economy,” he said at the event, which ends today.

IBM has focused on the latest innovation in agricultural technology to help improve plant productivity.

Recently, the company had come out with a new innovation, AgroPad, a type of paper used to analyse soil and minerals that is both cheap and efficient.

A complete crop analysis can be obtained by simply scanning the quick response code listed on the Agropad, said Gupta, adding that the information can be viewed on a mobile phone and also stored as data.