DSTE Capital Ltd is setting its sights on disrupting the country’s agriculture sector to not only solve the persistent challenges limiting its growth, but also help chart a sustainable course for its future.
Among the core pillars of any country, agriculture has seen notable growth in recent years, but its lagging development has not kept pace with the current population boom and technology advancements.
Negatively affected by the climate crisis, excessive development and environmental erosion, the industry will have to move quickly to adopt modern farming practices and technology to ensure supply chain continuity.
As a homegrown agrotechnology company, DSTE believes that it is timely to launch its smart farming solution DSTE Chain, which has the potential to revitalise the industry and ensure food safety, among others.
Labuan launch: (from left) DSTE administrative and investor relations head Steven Goon, business development head Datuk Seri Jerry Tay Yeong Min, CEO Datuk Seri Tan Choon Keng, Lim and Chin pose on stage at DSTE’s launch in Labuan on Saturday.
A purpose-built ecosystem, the solution traces the agricultural processes of produce along supply chains. It leverages a combination of today’s leading technologies, including distributed ledger technology (DLT) and the Internet of Things (IoT).
“With DSTE Chain, we strive to create a complete financial ecosystem for the global agricultural industry that will achieve greater efficiency and resolve some of the problems that the industry has long been facing,” said DSTE chief financial officer Dr Chin Kuen Liang, who sets the company’s strategic direction.Utilising blockchain technology, a popular type of DLT known for its decentralised and immutable nature, DSTE Chain documents all relevant information on food produce along the farm-to-fork value chain, improving transparency and eliminating the middleman to bring higher profit margins to farmers.
In line with the government’s National Agro-Food Policy 2.0, DSTE Chain will incorporate IoT devices to boost productivity in crop yield and cut down on resource wastage, to push agriculture into the fourth industrial revolution.
Data from the devices will be recorded into DSTE Chain, enabling farmers to trace and monitor their crop development, while other stakeholders can access in-depth information on the produce’s provenance.
This can prove invaluable in combatting food fraud and malpractice, such as false labelling. More importantly, it can potentially reduce the industry’s significant greenhouse gas emissions and address the food safety concerns prevalent in Malaysia’s agricultural produce exports.
In the case of an outbreak, it will enable a quick and accurate response to pinpoint and solve the root cause of plant or animal diseases.“We see a pressing need to resolve food fraud and safety issues in the industry. The lack of transparency and traceability in the food supply chain is often caused by outdated or traditional systems that lead to inefficiency in data sharing,” Chin opined.
According to chief operating officer Alan Lim, a second generation farmer with two decades’ experience under his belt, DSTE will first implement the solution in its own farms and plantations to serve as a case study to convince other small-scale farmers on its viability. Another objective is to gather sufficient information so that it can optimise best practices.DSTE owns several farms throughout the country, including durian farms in Telemong, pineapple farms in Kuala Krau and agro farms in Kuala Kangsar, Perak. It has plans to focus on five agricultural produce, namely MD2 pineapples, durians, coconut, pepper and bird’s nest.
The first phase is focused on the MD2 pineapple variety, owing to high demand for the fruit in local and international markets, especially in China. To kick off in late August, the variety will be planted in 100 acres of the company’s landbank, which is part of a larger 1,000 acres allocated for the internally funded project.
Lim said, “Currently in Malaysia, not many farmers are planting MD2 pineapples. Hence, the market opportunity window is huge as demand is currently more than the available supply.”
The company also has an ambitious long-term vision to make positive strides in advancing food safety and security in the nation. It intends to do this by supporting the growth of local small and medium-scale farmers in adopting best practices, alongside easing access to finance and markets.
“By enabling transparency and recording every detail of the production and processing of agricultural goods, the ability to ensure compliance with food and sustainability standards will be improved and data will be available on the products’ quality, safety and sustainability.
“Boosting the efficiency of data sharing not only increases the productivity of the supply chain network, but also improves the income and livelihood of small-scale farmers, who are the backbone of the industry,” Chin opined.
DSTE Chain could serve as a strong data-backed track record on yield performance for farmers keen on getting loans for expansion or insurance for risk mitigation.
The solution might also be the answer to meeting stringent quality standards and regulatory controls involved in the issuance of export certifications. In addition, it will allow for better regulatory enforcement by government authorities to take action against non-complying farmers.
At the same time, the company will continue blazing a bold path in agriculture, with a firm eye on pursuing measures to overturn the industry’s negative environmental impact and undergoing further research and development efforts to implement other innovations into DSTE Chain.