Modernising Malaysia’s agriculture sector

(From left) Prof Syed Jalaludin, ATAS president Emeritus Prof Tan Sri Augustine SH Ong, Dr Roda and Galharague at the MOU signing ceremony.

NEWLY minted national non-governmental organisation The Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences Association (ATAS) is set to spearhead tropical agricultural research and develop state-of-the-art innovative practices for food production.

In conjunction with its launch, ATAS signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Cooperation of International Research and Agriculture Development (CIRAD) — a French agriculture research and cooperation organisation working for the sustainable development of tropical and Mediterranean regions — to modernise Malaysia’s agriculture sector in line with the 12th Malaysia Plan which focuses on smart farming.

The signing ceremony was witnessed by French ambassador Roland Galharague.

At the event, ATAS patron Emeritus Prof Tan Sri Dr Syed Jalaludin Syed Salim said the NGO hoped to position Malaysia as the regional hub of tropical agricultural research, food production, agri-tech innovation and entrepreneurship development.

“With ATAS, we wish to ensure the success and sustainability of the ecosystem for tropical agriculture, which is Malaysia’s main agriculture sector for export.

“I’m convinced that the collaboration with CIRAD and implementation of innovative science technology methodologies will see an increase in food production for export, which will boost Malaysia’s economy,” said Prof Syed Jalaludin.

CIRAD regional director for South-East Asian Island Countries Dr Jean-Marc Roda said: “In the long-term, the MOU aims to develop specific collaboration programmes related to the specific interests of ATAS, which include technology agriculture, smart farming and precision agriculture.

“While CIRAD has a long-standing cooperation in Malaysia on the main agricultural commodities, which are oil palm, forest, timber products and biomass, this cooperation with ATAS expects to develop a specific focus on agroecological transitions, food systems, climate change and territory-based approaches, with specific focus on small farmers and their communities,” he added.

CIRAD has inherited the capabilities of more than 100 French tropical agricultural research organisations, which merged in 1984.

It works in some 50 countries, thereby connecting ATAS to a global network of some 200 partner institutions.

Among CIRAD’s success stories last year were fair organic farming in Africa; mangrove biodiversity in Vietnam; drone use to release sterile male mosquitoes to fight mosquito-borne diseases; strategies for emerging diseases in the Mekong area; agroecological intensification of cocoa; pesticide-free agriculture; animal breeding; bioenergy; climate resilient aquaculture and antimicrobial issues.

The development of specific programmes and implementation of technologies in Malaysia will be monitored by ATAS.

Projects addressing four key areas are already in the pipeline.

They are ATAS Rural Development Programme, ATAS Marine Aquaculture, ATAS Plantation Sector and ATAS Urban Farming Community.

ATAS will be organising its first International Conference of Tropical Agriculture (ICTA2022) from May 26 to 28 next year.

The conference aims to bring together leading agri scientists and academics, agri-tech entrepreneurs as well as agri practitioners, community leaders and NGOs to exchange and share their experiences, research findings, best practices and success stories.

The conference will also provide a premier interdisciplinary platform for all agriculture stakeholders to be present and discuss recent innovations, trends and concerns as well as practical challenges encountered, and possible solutions adopted in tropical agriculture.

The ICTA conference and exhibition will be organised annually to stimulate and promote industrial development of enterprises by entrepreneurs based on advances in tropical agricultural sciences. It will also encourage youth, agriculture enthusiasts and the community to participate and contribute actively to the development of the country’s agriculture sector.

ICTA2022 will be the first of the ICTA series that will also be running concurrently with ITEX 2022 (International Invention, Innovation and Technology Exhibition Malaysia).

The theme for the upcoming conference is “IR4.0”, focusing on digitalisation of agriculture and innovations to counter climate change.

The conference will feature smart and precision farming through the application of AI (artificial intelligence), ML (machine learning) and IoT (Internet of Things), among others.

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