Youth can bring a lot to the agriculture table, says expert

JOHOR BARU: Interest in agriculture among the youth is growing, but they lack the guidance needed to be involved in this sector, says the Federation of Malaysian Fruit Farmers Association.

Efforts must be made to gain their interest as youths can bring fresh ideas to the table and are more open to adopting technology such as artificial intelligence in agriculture, said association president Datuk Lawrence Ting Siew Haw.

“Gone are the days when farming was equivalent to just slogging away under the sun. Technology can play a huge part in the agriculture sector, and we should also be moving forward with the advancement of such technology,” he said in an interview.

The federation is doing its part with a pilot project at Chong Hwa High School in Rengit, where students are taught to plant fruits and vegetables on school grounds.

“We have industry experts to teach and monitor their progress and once successful, we will expand the programme to other schools nationwide.

“We want to show the younger generation that there are ample opportunities in the agricultural sector, which could be linked to their other interests, such as artificial intelligence and programming,” he said.

Ting added that the federation was now focused on several areas, including promoting smart farming, food safety and processing technology, baking and catering management, as well as logistics management and services.

He also said the federation will seek a meeting with Agriculture and Food Industry Ministry officials on Aug 18, where he plans to highlight the importance of applying technology in farming to promote productivity and efficiency.

“The federation can assist the ministry in monitoring farms and farming projects organised by the government and provide solutions and assistance,” he added.

Ting said they would also propose a cross-ministry collaboration to rope in universities and schools to create more interest and awareness about the sector.

“We are now collaborating with the Malaysia Federation of Vegetable Farmers Association to reach out to the youth in education institutions so that they can be provided with an alternative direction or profession to pursue in the future.

“Hopefully this will pave the way for more youths to enter the agriculture industry, as I noticed many young people during my recent trips to the agriculture exhibitions in various parts of the country,” he added.

Ting also said there is a need to streamline the data of farmers and their produce nationwide, and to improve technology use in the sector to secure the country’s food security.

“Sophisticated technology and agricultural design are the way forward, rather than relying on the old and wrong ways of fertilising and spraying pesticides, which cause more harm than good on our produce and the people’s health,” he added.

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