October 26, 2015

Malaysia’s First Sustainable Agro Farm

Malaysia’s First Sustainable Agro Farm

Golden melons are one of the high-value crops grown at Tanjung Talau's sustainable community farm. Photo Credit: Public Domain Images

In the small tin-mining town of Tanjung Tualang, a farm from the future has been introduced.  Using late-breaking sustainable agriculture technology, solar power, recycled rainwater, greenhouses and automated harvesting systems, the facility has been entrusted to the locals and runs as a flagship project for forward-thinking agriculture.

This unheard-of gift is a joint effort between agro technology company IRIS berhad and charitable foundation Koperasi Atlet Malaysia Berhad (KAMB).  Officially opened in 2011, it became Malaysia’s first and largest sustainable agro farm, and has been running successfully ever since.

Essentially, the farm is one part agricultural flagship project, one part-community experiment and one part charity program.  It provides around 300 jobs to the local community, favoring former athletes (KAMB is the business and investment arm of a charitable company charged with managing the welfare of Malaysia’s athletes), single mothers and those with special needs.  It also comes complete with modern, eco-efficient accommodation buildings, cafeterias, offices, rest lounges and recreational facilities designed to attract eco-agro tourists.  Needless to say, the farm is by no means a natural or common occurrence – especially in a small town like Tangung Tualang – but it serves a valuable purpose as proof of concept.

Located on 100 acres of marginal land, the farm yields surprising amounts of high-value crops like Golden Melon, Cherry Tomato, Japanese Cucumber, Eggplant, Okra and Habanero.  Some of this high per-acre yield is due to the use of greenhouses, and some of it is thanks to an innovation called the autopot.

Autopots are special pots that automatically deliver water and fertilizers to food-bearing crops.  A gravity-operated valve automatically waters and feeds plants just the right amount, giving the kind of special attention to a plant and efficiency to resource use that a farmer working on multiple acres has neither the time nor tools to deliver.  Autopots prevent over- and under-feeding of crops, save on water wastage and require no special pumps or complicated timers.  Because the system is potted, it can also be used away from traditionally arable land.

The Tangung Tualang farm represents something Malaysia should shoot for – agricultural sustainability.  Saving water, minimizing pollution, utilizing renewables and encouraging community health, the little slice of sustainability IRIS has created provides a model for a hopeful future.

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