January 24, 2021

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Selangor farm using IoT and AI to enhance yields

At first glance, the 0.8-hectare site in Kampung Sijangkang in Telok Panglima Garang, Selangor, where red chillies grow from black polybags, looks like an ordinary vegetable farm. However, this is far from a conventional farm; it is, in reality, a “digital laboratory farm” where digital agriculture or precision farming practices are used to increase crop yields and profitability, as well as reduce fertiliser, pesticide and herbicide inputs.

The Managing Director of the company that operates the farm, is making use of an Internet of Things (IoT) smart farming application and system developed by Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC).

The Managing Director, who has been involved in agriculture for 14 years, admitted that it was not easy for him to switch from conventional to digital farming applications but now he is convinced of its benefits. His “digital laboratory farm”, where some 6,000 red chilli plants are being cultivated using the fertigation technique, has now entered its third year of operation and the smart farming application has helped him to save time and manpower costs, as well as improve harvests.

He noted that anyone, even those in rural areas, can practice smart farming as long as they have a smartphone and Internet access. All they need to do is insert a SIM card in the sensor hub panel and monitor the cultivation process via their smartphone, he added.

IoT-based smart farming, also known as precision farming, helps farmers to optimise water, fertiliser and pesticide inputs and improve crop yield, quality and productivity by monitoring various factors such as humidity, temperature, soil conditions and fertiliser and pesticide levels on their farms or agricultural fields in real-time with the help of sensors and interconnectivity.

The Managing Director started his digital laboratory farm project by applying the smart farming application to the fertilisation system first. Its success spurred him to extend the application to pest control for which he used an automatic spraying system comprising a 137.16-meter-long railing.

His team this system effective and went on to integrate both the fertilisation and pesticide spraying systems which they controlled via the IoT application, he said, adding that the smart farming concept can benefit young agropreneurs involved in fertigation cultivations in terms of their farms’ maintenance, watering, fertilisation and pesticide application aspects.

With the use of emerging technologies such as satellites, drones, artificial intelligence and weather forecast software, farmers can determine crop types that are appropriate for cultivation on their land. This will avoid wastage and save time.

While he is still experimenting with this smart farming system, he noted that it has helped him save time and manpower costs and has given better yields too.

The IoT smart farming application, which can be downloaded on both Android and iOS smartphones, provides farm-related data that have nearly 100% accuracy. Among the data recorded by the sensors are readings pertaining to the volume of fertiliser or pesticide in the tanks, status of the irrigation pumps, humidity level and temperature, crop growth timeline, type of crop, date of cultivation and automatic harvesting and crop yield record.

The farm has 15 sensors and all the data collected from the field is stored in a cloud computing system. Data from the 15 sensors are sent to the cloud every 15 minutes. If the teams need any information on, for example, fertiliser, pesticide, temperature or humidity level, they just have to print out the required data from the list.

They can also download data from individual sensors. And, now they are developing a system that will enable access to all the data via email because it is quite time-consuming for them to download data from the cloud especially when there is too much data.

Technological collaborations with MDEC have also enabled them to activate the sensor control panel via voice commands, he added.

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