SPEAR­HEAD­ING IN­NO­VA­TION IN AGRICULTUR­E

The Star Malaysia - StarBiz - - News - By CALYN YAP [email protected]­tar.com.my

DSTE Cap­i­tal Ltd is set­ting its sights on dis­rupt­ing the coun­try’s agricultur­e sec­tor to not only solve the per­sis­tent chal­lenges lim­it­ing its growth, but also help chart a sus­tain­able course for its fu­ture.

Among the core pil­lars of any coun­try, agricultur­e has seen no­table growth in re­cent years, but its lag­ging devel­op­ment has not kept pace with the cur­rent pop­u­la­tion boom and tech­nol­ogy ad­vance­ments.

Neg­a­tively af­fected by the cli­mate cri­sis, ex­ces­sive devel­op­ment and en­vi­ron­men­tal ero­sion, the industry will have to move quickly to adopt mod­ern farm­ing prac­tices and tech­nol­ogy to en­sure sup­ply chain con­ti­nu­ity.

As a homegrown agrotech­nol­ogy com­pany, DSTE be­lieves that it is timely to launch its smart farm­ing so­lu­tion DSTE Chain, which has the po­ten­tial to re­vi­talise the industry and en­sure food safety, among oth­ers.

A pur­pose-built ecosys­tem, the so­lu­tion traces the agri­cul­tural pro­cesses of pro­duce along sup­ply chains. It lever­ages a com­bi­na­tion of to­day’s lead­ing tech­nolo­gies, in­clud­ing dis­trib­uted ledger tech­nol­ogy (DLT) and the In­ter­net of Things (IoT).

“With DSTE Chain, we strive to cre­ate a com­plete fi­nan­cial ecosys­tem for the global agri­cul­tural industry that will achieve greater ef­fi­ciency and re­solve some of the prob­lems that the industry has long been fac­ing,” said DSTE chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Dr Chin Kuen Liang, who sets the com­pany’s strate­gic di­rec­tion.

Util­is­ing blockchain tech­nol­ogy, a pop­u­lar type of DLT known for its de­cen­tralised and im­mutable na­ture, DSTE Chain doc­u­ments all rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion on food pro­duce along the farm-to-fork value chain, im­prov­ing trans­parency and elim­i­nat­ing the mid­dle­man to bring higher profit mar­gins to farm­ers.

In line with the gov­ern­ment’s Na­tional Agro-Food Pol­icy 2.0, DSTE Chain will in­cor­po­rate IoT de­vices to boost pro­duc­tiv­ity in crop yield and cut down on re­source wastage, to push agricultur­e into the fourth in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion.

Data from the de­vices will be recorded into DSTE Chain, en­abling farm­ers to trace and mon­i­tor their crop devel­op­ment, while other stake­hold­ers can ac­cess in-depth in­for­ma­tion on the pro­duce’s prove­nance.

This can prove in­valu­able in com­bat­ting food fraud and mal­prac­tice, such as false la­belling. More im­por­tantly, it can po­ten­tially re­duce the industry’s sig­nif­i­cant green­house gas emis­sions and ad­dress the food safety con­cerns preva­lent in Malaysia’s agri­cul­tural pro­duce ex­ports.

In the case of an out­break, it will en­able a quick and ac­cu­rate re­sponse to pin­point and solve the root cause of plant or an­i­mal dis­eases.

“We see a press­ing need to re­solve food fraud and safety is­sues in the industry. The lack of trans­parency and trace­abil­ity in the food sup­ply chain is of­ten caused by out­dated or tra­di­tional sys­tems that lead to in­ef­fi­ciency in data shar­ing,” Chin opined.

Ac­cord­ing to chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Alan Lim, a sec­ond gen­er­a­tion farmer with two decades’ ex­pe­ri­ence un­der his belt, DSTE will first im­ple­ment the so­lu­tion in its own farms and plan­ta­tions to serve as a case study to con­vince other small-scale farm­ers on its vi­a­bil­ity. An­other ob­jec­tive is to gather suf­fi­cient in­for­ma­tion so that it can op­ti­mise best prac­tices.

DSTE owns sev­eral farms through­out the coun­try, in­clud­ing durian farms in Tele­mong, pineapple farms in Kuala Krau and agro farms in Kuala Kangsar, Perak. It has plans to fo­cus on five agri­cul­tural pro­duce, namely MD2 pineap­ples, duri­ans, coconut, pep­per and bird’s nest.

The first phase is fo­cused on the MD2 pineapple va­ri­ety, ow­ing to high de­mand for the fruit in lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional mar­kets, es­pe­cially in China. To kick off in late Au­gust, the va­ri­ety will be planted in 100 acres of the com­pany’s land­bank, which is part of a larger 1,000 acres al­lo­cated for the in­ter­nally funded pro­ject.

Lim said, “Cur­rently in Malaysia, not many farm­ers are plant­ing MD2 pineap­ples. Hence, the mar­ket op­por­tu­nity win­dow is huge as de­mand is cur­rently more than the avail­able sup­ply.”

The com­pany also has an am­bi­tious longterm vision to make pos­i­tive strides in ad­vanc­ing food safety and se­cu­rity in the na­tion. It in­tends to do this by sup­port­ing the growth of lo­cal small and medium-scale farm­ers in adopt­ing best prac­tices, along­side eas­ing ac­cess to finance and mar­kets.

“By en­abling trans­parency and record­ing ev­ery de­tail of the pro­duc­tion and pro­cess­ing of agri­cul­tural goods, the abil­ity to en­sure com­pli­ance with food and sus­tain­abil­ity stan­dards will be im­proved and data will be avail­able on the prod­ucts’ qual­ity, safety and sus­tain­abil­ity.

“Boost­ing the ef­fi­ciency of data shar­ing not only in­creases the pro­duc­tiv­ity of the sup­ply chain network, but also im­proves the in­come and liveli­hood of small-scale farm­ers, who are the back­bone of the industry,” Chin opined.

DSTE Chain could serve as a strong databacked track record on yield per­for­mance for farm­ers keen on get­ting loans for ex­pan­sion or insurance for risk mit­i­ga­tion.

The so­lu­tion might also be the answer to meet­ing strin­gent qual­ity stan­dards and reg­u­la­tory con­trols in­volved in the is­suance of ex­port certificat­ions. In ad­di­tion, it will al­low for bet­ter reg­u­la­tory en­force­ment by gov­ern­ment author­i­ties to take ac­tion against non-com­ply­ing farm­ers.

At the same time, the com­pany will con­tinue blaz­ing a bold path in agricultur­e, with a firm eye on pur­su­ing mea­sures to over­turn the industry’s neg­a­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact and un­der­go­ing fur­ther re­search and devel­op­ment ef­forts to im­ple­ment other in­no­va­tions into DSTE Chain.

Labuan launch: (from left) DSTE ad­min­is­tra­tive and in­vestor re­la­tions head Steven Goon, busi­ness devel­op­ment head Datuk Seri Jerry Tay Yeong Min, CEO Datuk Seri Tan Choon Keng, Lim and Chin pose on stage at DSTE’s launch in Labuan on Satur­day.

Lim: DTSE will first im­ple­ment its smart farm­ing so­lu­tion on its farms and plan­ta­tions to serve as an ex­am­ple for other farm­ers.

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