CM urges higher learning institutions to conduct more R&D in the state

Abang Johari browsing through a book on Swinburne’s achievement after attending its celebration of 25th anniversary of receiving its university status. — ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE/The Star

KUCHING: Sarawak’s modernisation of its agriculture sector will see a revamp in the oil palm industry towards advanced mechanisation and precision farming.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said oil palm remained an integral agriculture commodity to spur the state’s economy.

It is an agro-based industry that has contributed over RM2bil in tax to the state government since 2010.

He added that modernisation of the industry was very much needed to increase productivity and the standard of products with more research and development (R&D).

“Much of the knowledge and research on oil palm had been carried out in peninsular Malaysia over the years.

“However, Sarawak can be rather different than other parts of the country and as such, more R&D is needed in Sarawak.

“Introducing precision farming and advanced technology in mechanised farming in the oil palm industry can greatly increase productivity, save cost and reduce its environmental impact.

“Such advancement also make our oil palm more appealing in global markets, especially those with strict environmental requirements,” Abang Johari said at Swinburne’s 25th anniversary celebration of its university status.

The chief minister called on universities and educational institutes to take up the challenge to modernise the agriculture and agro-based industry.

“We need the higher learning institutes to play a bigger role to support the government’s digital economy agenda and transition towards Industrial Revolution 4.0,” Abang Johari continued.

He said institutions of higher learning must not be a “closed” entities but open to collaborate and work with businesses, industries, the community and other stakeholders to ensure better understanding and demands of industries, latest business practices, setting industry standards and others.

Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak campus acting deputy vice-chancellor and chief executive officer Prof Ajay Kapoor said the university was pursuing a co-innovation ecosystem that would propel the oil palm industry to the next level.

With the implementation of advanced technology and injection of highly-skilled personnel under this plan, the potential benefits for the industry are substantial, including the need for less labour, he added.

He projected the initiative to help Sarawak reduce losses from uncollected fruit bunches up to RM2.8bil per annum, reduction in labour cost up to RM439mil annually, reduction in fertiliser cost up to RM936mil and increase yield from precision farming of up to RM5bil per year.

Swinburne University of Technology gained university status on July 1, 1992, with its home campus in Hawthorn, Melbourne. It kicked off the celebration earlier this month.

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