PETALING JAYA: Assistance will be given to enable the country to transition to widespread embrace of precision agriculture to allow farmers to earn higher profits at a lower cost.
Science, Technology and Innovation (Mosti) Minister Chang Lih Kang (pic) said precision agriculture is the application of information technology to better manage crop and livestock production to advance food security.
He said precision agriculture has the potential to increase productivity, improve resource allocation for inputs such as pesticides, fertilisers, water, feed and labour, and provide for more stable production.
Chang said the government is encouraging modern technologies such as sensors, drones and data analytics to improve crop yields, reduce wastage and reduce environmental impact.
“The use of precision farming can increase crop yield while decreasing the use of pesticides that harm the soil,” he said in an interview with The Star.
“For example, the Nuclear Agency of Malaysia (Nuklear Malaysia) has been working with farmers for more than six months and our data shows that precision farming effectively improves crop yields.
“Nuklear Malaysia is using organic fertiliser to reduce farmers’ costs and reduce chemical fertiliser usage by 50%.”
Another Mosti agency, NanoMalaysia, has also embarked on an integrated agriculture-aquaculture project in Manong, Perak, by providing an alternative source of protein for fish by using nanotechnology-based light panels to provide illumination.
Chang said there are also investments in research and development to create high-yielding, climate-resilient and disease-resistant crop varieties that can adapt to our unique agro-climatic conditions.
He also said the government will provide farmers financial incentives and subsidies to invest in advanced technologies and adopt sustainable farming practices.“Mosti’s responsibility is to develop more affordable technologies to assist farmers increase yields, improve food security and reduce reliance on foreign labour,” he said.
However, farmers cite high start-up costs as a barrier in mass adoption of precision agriculture.
Cameron Highlands Vegetable Growers Association deputy president Lau Weng Soow said as vegetable farmers have not received government subsidies or grants in a long time, most of them are reluctant to invest in precision farming because it still takes a significant amount of time to recoup such investments.
“We all understand that using advanced technology can reduce pests, increase production and alleviate the problem of limited land for lease (for example, most of the land hosting vegetable farms in Cameron Highlands do not belong to the farmers).
“While these technological devices can be removed when a farm relocates, farmers are wary of investing too much money at once.
“If the government is willing to give farmers low-interest loans or farming land, where the farmers’ profit is then shared with the government, then I’m sure many farmers will be willing to invest,” he said.
Federation of Vegetable Farmers Associaions president Lim Ser Kwee said the significant investment requirements for precision farming has discouraged farmers and not every type of vegetable is suitable for precision farming.
“How can pak choy, sawi and cucumber, which cost RM2 to RM3 per kg, make use of artificial intelligence unless they are capsicum or (high value) organic vegetables?
“Vegetables are a daily necessity for people and should not be sold at exorbitant prices,” he said.