Time to let robots take care of your fields / Sudah Tiba Masanya Robot Menjaga Ladang Kita

The Malaysian delegation led by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to India has just arrived home last week from a fruitful five-day official visit.

Thirty-one memoranda of understanding (MoU) totalling US$ 36 billion (RM 159.7 bil) of investments were signed, economic relations between the two countries were strengthened and cooperative efforts in defence were explored.

WhatsApp Image 2017-04-01 at 10.57.59
With Datuk Seri Reezal Merican, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the Presidential Residence in New Delhi. Such grand architecture!

One agenda of the visit was to attend the 7th Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council Meeting (GSIAC) in New Delhi. Chaired by the Prime Minister, GSIAC was established in 2011 and consists of several Malaysian ministers; the majority of the almost 40 members are captains of industry and renowned academicians from both the country and the globe.

The council, managed by Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT), is an opportunity for the members to deliberate ideas and strategies for Malaysia to advance in science and innovation.

Previous GSIAC meetings have revolved around green futures, smart communities, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programmes, and the new economy. Part of the discourse held in London last year was on the role of science centres to promote STEM.

I took the opportunity to visit the UK National STEM Learning Centre located within the University of York campus.

Sir John Holman, founding director of the Centre himself, and a couple of senior staff received us and guided our visit. They explained the history of the Centre since 2004, its success that led to extensive branches in the country, its governance and collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Wellcome Trust, Gatsby Foundation and UK commercial behemoths.

At UK National STEM Learning Centre, with Sir John Holman (centre), and ISTIC Honorary Chairman Dato’ Ir (Dr.) Lee Yee Cheong (right).

I was most impressed with their conviction in STEM talent to prepare UK for the 21st Century knowledge based global economy. We want to emulate their model of supporting educators’ and technicians’ professional development in STEM subjects, to be an integral part of existing science centres. The first round of consultation between this York Centre and Malaysian officials has been held in the Academy of Sciences Malaysia, with plans to set up a centre locally to follow.

This year was my third time attending the council meeting. The discussion focused on the Digital and Bioeconomy in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0 is a collective term embracing a number of contemporary automation, data exchange and manufacturing technologies.

Emerging technologies include artificial intelligence (AI), nanotechnology, biotechnology, 3D printing, and the internet of things (IoT), to name a few.

Industry 4.0 has the potential to raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for populations around the world. At the same time I am most concerned about the economic repercussions of the digital economy.

Promoters of these technologies and urbanites would benefit the most. Youths are migrating from their rural communities to cities with attractive digital opportunities, leaving behind a devastating consequence on their agricultural sector.

The developed world had to turn to cheap migrant labour to sustain their plantations.

However, adverse social, economic and political effects have led the US and Europe for example, to use automation in farming through robotics, AI and Big Data.

At the GSIAC meeting, New Delhi.

In Malaysia, we need to find ways to incorporate the elements of Industry 4.0 in our approach to address challenges faced in the bio-based sector. Traditional manufacturing and service industries, and the rural hinterland would be dangerously left behind if we do not take heed of the possible technological revolution aftermath.

The oil palm and rubber plantations in Malaysia are over-reliant on foreign labour; furthermore productivity is still not at its peak. Just yesterday it was reported that our palm planters would face severe labour shortage, as field hands from Indonesia who harvest the crops are more attracted to increased employment opportunities at home.

It was also reported that nationwide, we have 5,229,739 hectares of oil palm cultivation, where close to a third of the production stems from Sabah. The lack of labourers in the fields would cause a cascade of problems – fertilisers are not utilised thus reducing yield, a dearth of harvesters that would ultimately cost our economy billions a year.

38,792 ha of rubber trees are left untapped due to unattractive prices of rubber and also shortages in labour.

We would lose out as the number two producer of palm oil and top producer of natural rubber globally if we continue to think that attracting foreign labour is the only means to sustain these plantation industries.

Like the developed world, we can explore automation in our farms.

Semi or fully autonomous robotics systems can be built to harvest crops or carry out rubber tapping.

Japan’s shrinking agricultural sector, caused by an ageing population, accelerated the use of robots in farming lettuce, picking strawberries and tomatoes.

A Japanese lettuce producer is now using industrial robots to carry out almost all the tasks required to grow lettuces, from transplanting of young seedlings to larger spaces, to harvesting them. This innovation is expected to boost lettuce production from 21,000 to 50,000 a day, and within five years, to half a million a day!

In fact, the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) is organising the International Competition on Oil Palm Mechanisation.

They are offering a grand prize of US$ 1 mil (RM 4.44 mil) in search for mechanisation innovations for field operations in oil palm plantations.

At the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, we are also mobilising our technological capabilities in the digitalisation of plantation, where our agencies and research institutes such as Bioeconomy Corporation, MIMOS, SIRIM and the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency are called in for a series of roundtable discussion with the industry, Innovators Dynamic, chaired by myself.

Concurrently, in working together nationwide to solve this economic issue using technological means, we need to advocate trust and transparency in the process, where technological innovators would share their findings with the industry. Consumers of bioeconomy at home and abroad should be confident that our products are clean and green; it is possible though yet to actualise, for their whole production chain to be traced right back to the very source such as the tree, by applying Big Data and IoT.

The annual meeting was hosted by Prof Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid, Science Adviser to PM.

Prime Minister closed the GSIAC meeting by noting that we need to give our young ones free rein in their innate imagination and curiousity. As we attempt to automate our fields, we would also pursue quality STEM education for our children, such as the role of the STEM Learning Centre, to prepare them for tomorrow’s jobs.

Also available at http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/read.cfm?NewsID=2501

9.4.17 Time to let robots take care of your fields.jpg

Sudah Tiba Masanya Robot Menjaga Ladang Kita

Delegasi Malaysia yang diketuai Perdana Menteri Dato’ Sri  Najib Razak ke India baru sahaja pulang minggu lepas selepas kejayaan lawatan rasmi selama lima hari.

Sebanyak 31 memorandum persefahaman (MoU) berjumlah US$36 bilion (RM159.7 bilion) dalam bentuk pelaburan telah ditandatangani, hubungan ekonomi antara kedua-dua negara diperkukuh dan usaha kerjasama pertahanan telah diterokai.

Antara agenda lawatan ini ialah Mesyuarat Majlis Penasihat Sains dan Inovasi Global (GSIAC) di New Delhi. GSIAC yang dipengerusikan oleh Perdana Menteri dibentuk pada 2011 dan dianggotai oleh beberapa menteri dari Malaysia. Majlis seramai lebih 40 ahli itu sebahagian besarnya dianggotai ketua industri dan pakar akademik terkemuka dari kedua-dua negara dan seluruh dunia.

Majlis yang diuruskan oleh Kumpulan Industri Kerajaan untuk Teknologi Tinggi Malaysia (MIGHT) ini, membuka ruang kepada ahlinya mempertimbangkan idea dan strategi untuk mengembangkan sains dan inovasi di Malaysia.

Mesyuarat GSIAC selalunya membincangkan masa depan hijau, komuniti pintar, ekonomi baharu serta program sains, teknologi, kejuruteraan dan matematik (STEM). Sebahagian daripada wacana yang diadakan di London tahun lepas adalah tentang peranan pusat sains untuk menggalakkan STEM.

Saya mengambil peluang ini untuk melawat Pusat Pembelajaran STEM Kebangsaan UK yang terletak di kampus University of York.

Sir John Holman, pengarah dan pengasas Pusat itu dan beberapa kakitangan kanan beliau menyambut kedatangan kami dan membawa kami melawat tempat itu. Kami diberi penerangan tentang sejarah Pusat itu sejak 2004, kejayaannya yang membawa kepada penubuhan cawangan yang meluas di negara itu, tadbir urus serta kerjasamanya dengan Kementerian Pendidikan, Amanah Wellcome, Yayasan Gatsby dan organisasi komersial utama di UK.

Di pusat Pembelajaran STEM Kebangsaan UK, bersama-sama Sir John Holman (tengah) dan Pengerusi Terhormat ISTIC Dato’ Ir (Dr.) Lee Yee Cheong (kanan).

Saya amat kagum dengan keyakinan mereka dalam bakat STEM untuk mempersiapkan UK menjadi kuasa ekonomi global berasaskan pengetahuan abad ke-21. Kita berhasrat mengikut model mereka dalam menyokong pembangunan profesional pengajar dan juruteknik dalam subjek STEM, supaya menjadi bahagian penting dalam pusat sains sedia ada.

 Perundingan pertama antara pusat di York ini dengan pegawai dari Malaysia telah diadakan di Akademi Sains Malaysia, berakhir dengan perancangan untuk membina sebuah pusat tempatan.

Tahun ini merupakan kali ketiga saya menghadiri mesyuarat majlis ini. Perbincangan kali ini memberi tumpuan kepada Digital dan Bioekonomi dalam era Revolusi Perindustrian Keempat. Revolusi Perindustrian Keempat atau Industri 4.0 merupakan istilah kolektif yang mendukung automasi kontemporari, pertukaran data dan teknologi pembuatan.

Antara teknologi yang memuncul termasuklah kecerdasan buatan (AI), teknologi nano, bioteknologi, percetakan 3D dan Internet of Things (IoT).

Industri 4.0 berpotensi untuk meningkatkan tahap pendapatan global dan menambah baik kualiti hidup masyarakat seluruh dunia. Pada masa yang sama, saya amat khuatir akan kesan ekonomi digital terhadap ekonomi.

Golongan yang menyokong teknologi dan kecanggihan inilah yang akan mendapat manfaat paling banyak. Perpindahan golongan muda dari luar bandar ke bandar untuk merebut  peluang digital yang menarik akan memberi kesan yang mendalam terhadap sektor pertanian.

Negara-negara maju terpaksa menggunakan tenaga buruh asing yang murah untuk mengusahakan tanaman mereka.

Walau bagaimanapun, kesan mudarat sosial, ekonomi dan politik menyebabkan A.S. dan Eropah antaranya, menggunakan automasi dalam pertanian melalui robotik, AI dan Data Besar.

Di Malaysia, kita perlu mencari kaedah untuk menggabungkan elemen Industri 4.0 dalam pendekatan kita untuk menangani cabaran yang dihadapi sektor berasaskan bio. Industri pembuatan dan perkhidmatan tradisional, dan daerah pedalaman luar bandar akan jauh ketinggalan jika kita tidak mengendahkan kemungkinan kesan daripada revolusi teknologi ini.

Perladangan kelapa sawit dan getah di Malaysia terlalu bergantung pada buruh asing; tambahan pula tahap produktiviti masih belum mencapai kemuncaknya. Baru sahaja semalam dilaporkan yang peladang kelapa sawit akan berdepan dengan masalah besar kekurangan pekerja kerana pekerja ladang dari Indonesia yang memetik tanaman lebih tertarik kepada peluang pekerjaan yang semakin meningkat di negara mereka.

Turut dilaporkan, kita mempunyai 5,229,739 hektar ladang kelapa sawit di seluruh negara dan hampir sepertiga daripada pengeluarannya dari Sabah. Kekurangan tenaga buruh di ladang akan menimbulkan masalah lain – baja tidak digunakan justeru mengurangkan kadar hasil, kekurangan penuai akhirnya akan menyebabkan kerugian berbilion ringgit setahun kepada ekonomi negara.

Kekurangan pekerja dan harga getah yang rendah menyebabkan 38,792 hektar pokok getah terbiar tanpa ditoreh.

Kita juga akan kehilangan kedudukan sebagai pengeluar kelapa sawit nombor dua dunia dan pengeluar utama getah asli dunia jika kita berterusan menganggap pengambilan buruh asing adalah satu-satunya cara untuk mengekalkan industri perladangan ini.

Sebagaimana negara-negara maju, kita juga boleh melaksanakan automasi di ladang.

Sistem robotik berautonomi atau separa autonomi boleh dibina untuk menyemai atau menoreh getah.

Sektor pertanian di Jepun, yang semakin menyusut disebabkan masyarakat tani yang semakin tua, mempercepatkan penggunaan robot dalam penanaman salad serta pemetikan strawberi dan tomato.

Pengeluar salad di Jepun kini menggunakan robot industri untuk melakukan hampir semua kerja untuk menanam salad, daripada proses pemindahan anak benih muda ke kawasan yang lebih luas sehingga proses menuainya. Inovasi ini dijangka akan meningkatkan pengeluaran salad daripada 21,000 kepada 50,000 jambak sehari, dan dalam tempoh lima tahun, kepada setengah juta jambak sehari!

Malah, Lembaga Minyak Sawit Malaysia (MPOB) sedang menganjurkan Pertandingan Mekanisasi Ladang Sawit Antarabangsa.

Mereka menawarkan hadiah utama sebanyak US$1 juta (RM4.44 juta) dalam usaha mencari inovasi penjenteraan untuk operasi ladang dalam perladangan kelapa sawit.

Di MOSTI, kami juga sedang menggerakkan keupayaan teknologi dalam pendigitalan perladangan. Bagi tujuan ini, agensi dan institut penyelidikan kami seperti Bioeconomy Corporation, MIMOS, SIRIM dan Agensi Remote Sensing Malaysia telah dipanggil untuk beberapa siri perbincangan meja bulat Innovators Dynamic bersama industri, dengan saya sendiri mempengerusikannya.

Serentak dengan itu, dalam usaha di seluruh negara untuk menyelesaikan isu ekonomi dengan menggunakan kaedah teknologi ini, kita perlu yakin dan telus dalam proses ini, iaitu pereka baharu teknologi akan berkongsi hasil dapatan mereka dengan industri. Pengguna bioekonomi di dalam dan di luar negara harus yakin yang produk kita adalah bersih dan hijau. Keadaan ini mungkin berlaku walaupun belum menjadi kenyataan, untuk keseluruhan rantaian pengeluaran mereka dijejaki kembali ke sumber utama seperti pokok, dengan mengguna pakai Data Besar dan IoT.

Perdana Menteri mengakhiri mesyuarat GSIAC dengan menyatakan bahawa kita perlu memberi golongan muda kita antonomi dalam memanfaatkan kuasa imaginasi semula jadi dan sifat ingin tahu mereka. Apabila kita cuba untuk mengautomasikan ladang kita, kita juga akan berusaha untuk menyediakan pendidikan STEM berkualiti untuk anak-anak kita, seperi peranan Pusat Pembelajaran STEM, menyediakan mereka untuk pekerjaan masa depan.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top