Using smart agriculture system to make commercial and home farming easier

Nov 26, 2020, 12:09 PM

In about 30 years, the world’s population is expected to exceed nine billion people — a growth of more than 30%. In other words, there will be 2.3 billion more mouths to feed.

Less developed economies such as North Korea and Cuba are already grappling with severe food shortages. Countries on the African continent remain the epicentre of hunger, with 676 million suffering from a lack of food.

That is why agriculture technology (agritech) firm Plant Cartridge Sdn Bhd has developed a growing kit to enable sustainable urban farming at home. Now, it is utilizing its knowledge for the growth of smart industry-scale farms in response to an insatiable demand for safe and sustainable food production.

“Farming is all about control. We need to embrace technology to take the tedious and unpredictable components out of farming,” says Plant Cartridge CEO Liang Chan Ning.

“In Asia-Pacific, the mindset is still very traditional when it comes to farming. A farm is still observed as just a farm, and not a factory, because labour is still cheap, land is ample and waste is not a problem the man in the street has to deal with — yet.

“So, it took us a while to get a forward-looking partner who believes in the deployment of technology and understands the need for a longer timeline over immediate profits.”

By collaborating with Cultiveat Group Sdn Bhd, another innovative agritech company, Liang and his team have been able to industrialize their humble growing kit. It is based on the simple science of hydroponics but refined and upgraded using a one-step soilless growing method. This method of farming utilizes fewer resources and produces better quality, affordable and, most importantly, safe to consume local crops compared with industrial farms.

The current venture with brothers John-Hans and John-Ian Oei of Cultiveat involves the extension of Plant Cartridge’s existing business and the former’s expertise in developing and managing industrial farms. Plant Cartridge provides the technology, which includes its highly successful growing kit — a 2ft-long covered rectangular ultraviolet-coated polyethylene tank that has holes to fit eight pods that contain select seeds and growing medium as well as a hole in the centre for irrigation purposes.

Meanwhile, Cultiveat worked on clearing the land it owns and is in the process of constructing greenhouses on a two-acre plot at the edge of Kapar, which is less than 3km from the coast of the Straits of Malacca. It already has a greenhouse on a plot of land in Klang, where it is growing 18 types of lettuce. This is no mean feat as those leafy vegetables thrive at a cooler temperature of 15°C while Klang is a sweltering 26°C.

Liang explains that in the greenhouse, it controls temperature, humidity, irrigation and pests. The cartridge itself is used to control germination.

“We have multiple sensors to control the humidity, amount of light and temperature in the greenhouse. If I want to maintain the temperature at 27°C, with 70% humidity and 20,000 lux of sunlight, the greenhouse will automatically adjust.”

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