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Smart durian farming heralds change

China Daily | Updated: 2021-12-02 10:05
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Consumers step out after shopping at the 18th China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, on Sept 13. [Photo by Peng Huan/For China Daily] 

Nation, economic bloc cooperate on innovation to ease farmers' burdens

RAUB, Malaysia-Standing in his 10-acre durian orchard in Malaysia's central Pahang state, Leong Pui Sam, who calls himself Sam, said the collaboration with Regaltech and Alibaba Cloud in smart farming is life-changing.

"Back in the days, there were no exact ways to determine when to irrigate or to fertilize the durian trees, it really depended on our planting experience," said Sam, a durian farmer with nine years of planting experience, in a chat with Xinhua.

Sam planted the famed Malaysian Musang King durian, the thorny "king of fruits" with strong smell and flavor.

"Sometimes, we were betting our luck if we could harvest great quality durians or not, as certain key factors like weather are really out of our control," he said.

Ever since he adopted the smart farming system co-developed by Regaltech and Alibaba Cloud in 2020, Sam noticed significant improvements in crop productivity, and "durian plantations are now much cost- and time-efficient with less haywire moments."

Located in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia, Regaltech is a digital agritech service company which specializes in smart farming. In 2019, Regaltech collaborated with China's Alibaba Cloud in developing a cloud-based smart platform for durian cultivation.

Alex Ch'ng, general manager of Regaltech, said that sensor nodes were provided to farmers, assisting them in monitoring the plants' condition without the need to be physically present at the orchard.

By collecting data through sensor nodes at the orchard and analyzing data like electric conductivity, PH, soil moisture, weather, irrigation schedule on their cloud, the smart platform helps to provide professional guidance for durian farming.

"The smart farming system would suggest if irrigation or fertilization is needed after analyzing the data from the cloud. Now, farmers can easily improve their productivity and efficiency by making accurate data-driven decisions with help from the smart fertigation system developed by Regaltech and Alibaba Cloud," said Ch'ng.

Fertigation involves injection of fertilizers that can amend soil, water and other water-soluble products into an irrigation system.

Alibaba Cloud has entered the Malaysian market for about four years. Jordy Cao, general manager for Alibaba Cloud in Malaysia, expressed the wish of Alibaba in helping more local businesses take digital transformation forward with the Chinese technology.

Cao said Malaysia has a unique geographical advantage in durian plantation. On the other hand, he noticed that the traditional fertigation techniques somehow barricaded the durian farmers when they tried to escalate the production in meeting the demand from the market.

"Alibaba Cloud is here to bridge the gap, hoping that our affordable smart farming technology could help ease the burden of all the farmers," Cao said.

The spiky tropical fruit, especially the premium Musang King species from Malaysia, has been in demand in the Chinese market as the import of this pungent delicacy has grown steadily over the past few years.

At the same time, the leapfrogging technology from China has equipped Malaysian farmers with high-tech digital solutions, a fruitful achievement of the cooperation between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"For sure we will have more big data platforms for durian plantation in the future. All this 'big data' could be seen as a navigating system that assists the farmers, leading them to the agritech future," said Ch'ng.


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