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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Technology a Crucial Ingredient in Sarawak’s Agricultural Transformation

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The Sarawak Government’s aspirations for the agricultural sector in Sarawak is not just to transform the State into a net food exporter by 2030, but also to be a sustainable and technology-based sector in order to ensure food security and generate income for the farming community.

To achieve these ambitions within 10 years (2021 to 2030), the Government through the Department of Agriculture (DOA) Sarawak has been exploring and utilising the latest technology to modernise the State’s agriculture.

The use of the latest agricultural technology is important to transform Sarawak’s agriculture

Among many other initiatives, the department has been adapting the use of smart farming technology and Internet of Things (IoTs); incorporating new methods of farming such as fertigation and hydroponic; stepping up research and development (R&D) activities like the study of producing bio-compost from farm wastes; introducing a modernised method of farming lobsters (‘tanks on racks indoors’); and running a project on producing high quality rice seedlings.

The use of technology and prioritisation of R&D will enable Sarawak to meet the targeted outcomes and measures that are set to be achieved by 2030, as outlined under the agricultural sector of the Post COVID-19 Economic Recovery Strategic Plan drafted by the Ministry of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development Sarawak.

Golden melons planted through fertigation at TKPM Rampangi, Kuching

These outcomes and measures are to increase:

  • Rice self-sufficiency level (SSL) from 51 percent to 70 percent;
  • Trade balance from a deficit of RM3.9 billion to a surplus of RM2.0 billion;
  • Monthly income of farming families from RM2,500 to RM6,000; and
  • Contribution of the agricultural sector in Sarawak’s gross domestic product (GDP) from 13.5 percent to 20 percent.

Moving forward through the 12th Malaysia Plan and subsequent plans, the Government will continue to boost strategies and initiatives involving advanced technology and R&D.

Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Mukah Campus, one of several tertiary institutes in Sarawak that offers agricultural-related courses

Among them is prioritising the development of high-value crops that are suitable to be grown in Sarawak and can be exported, such as food crops (durian, pineapple, banana, coconut); commodities (oil palm, pepper, rubber, sago); fisheries (red tilapia, siakap, prawn); and food security (rice).

A more comprehensive strategy is increasing total agricultural production and productivity through initiatives that are vital in addressing the various challenges facing the agricultural sector in Sarawak. These initiatives include:

  • Utilising high-yield varieties or breeds to replace low-yield ones, which can improve volume and yield of agricultural products that are presently low and inconsistent in quality.
  • Introducing and promoting the adaptation of modern technology such as mechanisation and automation, as well as modern agriculture like smart farming, fertigation and hydroponic to attract more youths to be involved in agriculture and help boost the sector’s productivity and competitiveness.
  • Enhancing human capital development that focuses on skills and technology via agricultural institutes and agricultural training and development to provide support systems and services not only for youths to be able to pursue agricultural-related careers, but also for the increasingly ageing farming community who can forgo conventional farming methods once they have the latest technical skills and knowledge and the capacity to upgrade their farms or orchards.

Initiatives that aim to boost private sector participation, including attracting investors and driving innovation in research and development (R&D) and high technology. In DOA Sarawak’s opinion, the private sector’s involvement is essential to achieve commercialisation and drive modern agriculture, especially companies that “possess the technology, capital, expertise and most importantly market access.”

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