Smart Farming in Sarawak

By Dr Gabriel Wee Wei EnAgriculture, an age-old industry, is facing numerous modern-day challenges, including those posed by climate change and technological gaps.In Sarawak, a significant contributor to the region’s GDP and employment, the sector is at a crossroads. Here’s …

Smart Farming in Sarawak

By Dr Gabriel Wee Wei En

Agriculture, an age-old industry, is facing numerous modern-day challenges, including those posed by climate change and technological gaps.

SWINSays Swinburne Sarawak

In Sarawak, a significant contributor to the region’s GDP and employment, the sector is at a crossroads. Here’s how smart farming can revolutionize the sector and put Sarawak, on the path to sustainable and advanced agriculture, making it more resilient and robust for future challenges.

Revolutionizing Agriculture

Smart Farming or Precision Agriculture refers to the application of modern information and communication technologies (ICT) into agriculture. Utilizing advancements from the 4th Industrial Revolution, such as IoT devices, AI, drones, and blockchain, Smart Farming aims to enhance the quality, quantity, and sustainability of agricultural production.

Picture this. Drones, buzzing gently above the paddy fields, steadfastly monitoring the health of each individual sprout and ensuring they grow to their healthiest.

The Post-COVID-19 Development Strategy (PCDS) 2030 by the Sarawak government is not merely a policy document. It’s Sarawak’s very own roadmap to a future where farms whisper tales of resilience and sustainability. Amidst the echoes of a global pandemic and clashing powers, Sarawak may just find its silver lining in Smart Farming.

Facing challenges of food security, erratic crop yields, and youth’s diverted interest from farming, the beacon of Smart Farming lights the path. It promises a future where technology doesn’t usurp traditions but marries them to give birth to a legacy of enhanced, yet sustainable agricultural practices, safeguarding our beloved Sarawak’s self-sufficiency and stability.

How Smart Farming Benefits Sarawak

The Sarawak government has been actively pursuing Smart Farming initiatives. Endeavours such as the proposed development of the Tarat and Semenggok SARTECH (Sarawak Agro-Technology Park) spotlight a commitment to embedding technology into the agricultural fabric of the region.

This is further bolstered by initiatives aimed at capacity-building among farmers and agropreneurs, the development of precision farming parks, and strategic allocations for the processing and marketing of agricultural products.

However, it’s imperative to note that the manifestation of a truly transformative Smart Agriculture landscape in Sarawak is not tethered solely to top-down approaches. The farmers, forming the bedrock of agricultural output, must reciprocate and intertwine with these technological and infrastructural advancements, thereby co-authoring a future where technology and traditional farming practices amalgamate to define a new era of agricultural prosperity in Sarawak.

In regions with tight-knit communities like Sarawak, the power of social influence and shared experiences cannot be overstated. Success stories of early adopters can sway entire communities towards embracing new and innovative farming techniques, as seen in the widespread adoption of the “Sufficiency Economy Philosophy” in Thailand’s rice-growing regions.

As an example, The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) invited wellness bloggers and influencers to participate in its latest Global Media/Blogger Farm Trip as part of the “Amazing Thailand Health and Wellness Tourism New Chapters New Experience” project.

By showcasing the practical application of smart farming technologies and techniques in their content, the influencers inherently provide a platform that promotes and validates these practices. The storytelling, through vlogs, blogs, and social media posts – communicates the practicality, benefits, and necessity of adopting smart farming methods to Thai farmers. The content commanded a sizable following and engagements.

Emulating the successful model from Thailand, where influencers illuminate the merits of smart farming to a broad audience, Sarawak finds a compatible blueprint given its tight-knit communities and the confluence of traditional and innovative approaches in agriculture.

Both regions exhibit strong communal bonds, a reverence for traditional agricultural wisdom, and a willingness to embrace innovations for enhanced yields and sustainability. Leveraging influencers to showcase the synchronicity of smart farming technologies with traditional practices could potentially amplify adoption in Sarawak, as success stories and practical benefits ripple through the interconnected communities.

This approach not only augments local practices but also serves to spotlight Sarawak’s sustainable and technologically advanced agriculture on a global stage, intertwining economic aspirations with sustainable development.

Collaborative Efforts for Smart Agriculture Success

In Sarawak, the adoption of Smart Farming holds immense potential, promising to usher in a new era of agricultural productivity and sustainability. Bridging the technological and knowledge gap is fundamental for the seamless integration of cutting-edge advancements into the region’s agricultural practices.

This is where higher education institutions like Swinburne can play a significant role. Beyond conventional educational and technological support, higher education institutions emerge as an avenue for the research and development of innovative smart farming technologies, including both hardware and software prototypes.

Furthermore, by utilizing academic insights into market trends and consumer behaviours, these institutions can creatively aid in the effective marketing of agricultural products, ensuring that the benefits of enhanced productivity are fully realized. 

Returning to the grassroots – engaging directly with Sarawak’s farming communities – ensures that the integration of Smart Farming is not just top-down, but deeply embedded within local practices and knowledge. Harnessing social influence can be an invaluable strategy in Sarawak, where communal ties and shared experiences are paramount.

These influences can significantly shape perceptions and accelerate the adoption of innovative farming technologies and practices. Addressing farmers’ concerns, such as potential financial barriers, the adoption of technology, and fears of eroding traditional practices, must be at the forefront of the Smart Farming transition strategy.

By crafting an actionable blueprint that involves comprehensive training, hands-on experiences, and firm support structures, the government, in collaboration with private sectors and educational institutions, can pave the way for not only a technologically advanced but also a socially and economically sustainable agricultural future in Sarawak.

This inclusive, empathetic, and forward-thinking approach is pivotal in realizing the full potential of Smart Farming, propelling Sarawak towards agricultural self-sufficiency and establishing it as a potent player in the global food export market.