22 December 2017

Swinburne Sarawak organises workshop to catalyse the leap into smart future farming

KUCHING – Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus (Swinburne Sarawak), The University of Manchester, United Kingdom and Universiti Putra Malaysia recently conducted a four-day workshop on smart future farming.

The workshop, aimed to explore the potential of implementing sensor technology into the farming sector, was attended by 40 participants selected from universities and relevant agencies around Malaysia and the UK, including local stakeholders involved in agriculture. It was supported by Newton Fund Researcher Links Workshop Grants delivered by the British Council.

Participants taking part in hands-on activity during the workshop

Participants taking part in hands-on activity during the workshop

Topics discussed during the workshop covered introduction of current development in smart future farming at national and international levels, different sensors that are hybridized with Internet of Things (IoT) in farming processes, practical and economical technology as tools in assisting farming activities, electrochemical sensors for disease monitoring in farming, importance of gas sensors as alarms in farming applications, and smart materials that can be applied in farming.

Participants were also exposed to hands-on activity where they were provided with a system that is assembled with different types of sensors, where this system was linked on a shared server that allowed remote monitoring to be achieved on real time using a mobile device. In addition, they went on a site visit to local farms in Kuching and learned about farm operations, problems faced by the farmers, labour issues, type of crops cultivated and the technology that is already in place.

On the last day of the workshop, participants were divided into groups and given the task to explore the potential of adopting relevant technologies, practicality of implementation and associated cost to overcome the current limitations faced by the farming sector. They also identified the need to have a good policy that can govern the development of smart farming.

All ideas will be pursued and brought forward for discussion with relevant agencies, funding bodies and policy makers.

According to Dr Ng Sing Muk, Associate Director for the Research Consultancy and Future Projects at Swinburne Sarawak, Malaysian Organising Chairperson and workshop speaker, there is an urgent need to venture into more precise approaches and technology assisted operations to increase productivity.

“This is to ensure that we can produce enough crops to feed demands from the ever growing population. The world is projected to have a population of 9.6 billion by the year 2050 and this means we need to increase the average yield of crops by at least 60% of our current production,” said Dr Ng.

Meanwhile, UK Organising Chairperson and workshop speaker Professor Krishna Persaud commented that the site visit was a valuable experience and had deepened their understandings on how local farms are being operated.

He further emphasised that this is extremely important especially for the researchers to develop technology that can be translated onto the field, rather than just tools that are conceptually working but impractical to be applied to real field applications.

The workshop has been acknowledged as timely by some of the local agencies that deal with the agricultural sector for the state of Sarawak as it is very much in line with the vision of the current Chief Minister to develop a state that is based on digital economy.

For more information about Swinburne Sarawak, visit the university’s website (www.swinburne.edu.my), Facebook page (@swinburnesarawak), Instagram (@swinburnesarawak),Twitter page (@Swinburne_Swk) or YouTube channel (Swinburne Sarawak).

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