by ASILA JALIL / pic by RAZAK GHAZALI
THE Malaysia Digital Economy Corp (MDEC) and CIMB Islamic Bank Bhd have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on extending an extensive microfinancing programme with an allocation of RM25 million as initial funding package to catalyse the Digital Agriculture Technology (Digital AgTech) in Malaysia.
With the purpose of increasing the adoption of digital technology in local farming, both parties hope to attract youth to be involved in the agriculture sector and tap potential opportunities that the sector has to offer.
Agriculture and Food Industries Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ronald Kiandee who was present at the event said the involvement of youths as farmers may be little as of now, but they had actually played a significant role in the industry’s value chain.
“Youths are involved in the service provider segment for the industry and they also know how to use drones. We have to look at the whole chain to see youths’ participation in farming,” he said in a press conference after the signing of MoU in Cyberjaya recently.
He said the use of digital technology in farming will provide opportunities to youth in getting themselves acquainted with the industry.
MDEC had initiated a pilot project in 2018 to spur yield and quality of crops utilising the latest technologies via a public-private partnership with the Pertubuhan Peladang Kawasan Kuala Langat.
It had allowed farmers to adopt an Internet of things-enabled fertigation system that helped them reduce monthly fertilisers usage by 20%, lower monthly manpower requirement by 25% and increase the overall quality of yield for Grade A chillies by up to 90%.
MDEC chairman Datuk Dr Rais Hussin Mohamed Ariff said the MoU will now enable this initiative to go nationwide and contribute to the nation’s food security and sovereignty.
He said the current key Digital AgTech initiatives by MDEC, such as the eLadang programme, had successfully benefitted 548 participants as of December 2019.
“With the proliferation of the use of digital technology in the agriculture sector, an estimated 30% increase in job opportunities will be created by 2025 in this sector.
“Wide usage of Digital AgTech will also drive more youths into this sector, most of whom will be needed to manage and run these innovations. Under the MDEC eLadang pilot project, 70% of 548 participants trained up to December 2019 in Digital AgTech hail from the under 40 age group,” he said.
For this year, MDEC aims to benefit 200 farmers nationwide via the Digital AgTech programme.
Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah added that besides chillies, the Digital AgTech programme is also expanding its initiative to involve hydroponic farming, smart shrimp farming, drone utilisation at pineapple farms and smart palm oil farming, among others.
The pilot project and smart farming is currently being done in Selangor, Sarawak, Penang, Johor and Kedah.
“I hope this initiative will be extended to other states and I suggest for each state to be given a specific responsibility, for example, maybe Pahang can implement smart farming for vegetables,” he said.
He added that the Perikatan Nasional government is committed to developing the farming sector in the country and the usage of technology is among the factors that could contribute to the growth in overall performance for the local agriculture industry.
Through the MoU, CIMB Islamic CEO Ahmad Shahriman Mohd Shariff said the company will extend funding support and incentives to aid digital transformation in the sector and progressively collaborate with relevant industry partners to elevate the use of AI and IoT in farming.
“This collaboration with MDEC with an initial group of 500 participating farmers will not only improve their economic status, but also bring refreshed vibrancy and industry attractiveness to youths who will be farmpreneurs of tomorrow, boosting the prospects of Malaysia’s agricultural sector,” he said.