There are many readily available technologies that we can implement to help our farmers increase crop productivity.
Growing demand for high-quality farm outputs and the emergence of new technologies are promoting higher agricultural productivity. IoT, in particular, could be a huge opportunity to serve a wide array of industry needs. Despite this, most farmers haven't truly embraced the technology.
Dr. Mazeyanti Mohd Ariffin, an IT lecturer at UTP says, “There are many readily available technologies that we can implement to help our farmers to increase crop productivity. But we need to cut through the hype and reach out to them to find out what they really need."
Last year, in April, when a group of UTP students headed to Teluk Kepayang, Bota for a university social responsibility program, they learned that the villagers there were fighting the threat of golden apple snails.
Although the villagers have inherited most of the technical know-hows to cope with the threat, they were not able to react fast enough without incurring some losses.
In simple terms, golden apple snails cut the rice stem at the base, destroying the whole plant. The critical time to manage the threat of golden apple snails is during land preparation and planting. Specifically, farmers need to take prompt action in the first 10 days after transplanting and during the first 21 days after wet-seeding.
Previously, according to Dr. Mazeyanti, the methods used by farmers such as hand-picking and ducks had failed to eliminate the snails. “There were too many of them," she says.
As the snails were very difficult to kill, some farmers even resorted to using harmful and sometimes illegal pesticides to kill them before they can plant the seeds.
Following a series of discussions with local farmers in (June), Dr. Mazeyanti and her students began to work on device they called Preditack to help farmers thwart the looming threat of golden apple snails.
From a functional standpoint, Preditack is a solar powered mechanical device that's designed to monitor paddy field conditions in real time. Pairing an IoT monitoring tool with a simple mechanical engineering solution, the device predicts the time of golden apple snail attack and notifies farmers through Preditack mobile app.
Dr. Mazeyanti says, “The device scans and forecasts movements of golden apple snails at the paddy field. From the live data, if the farmers decide to kill the snails, they can turn on the device remotely using Preditack app and immobilise the snails. In addition, it's solar powered and it can be installed anywhere without requiring any expensive tools."
According to Dr. Mazeyanti, integrating the device into rice farming has also helped farmers cut their operating hours. She explains, “Now, they don't have to monitor their paddy fields as frequently as they previously did"
She adds, “One device can cover up to one hectare of land. Apart from the workings of the device, we also collaborated with MARDI (Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute) to identify the best solution to kill golden apple snails."
Also, Dr. Mazeyanti shared that project was a marriage of expertise between UTP's ICT and mechanical engineering students. “The programming was done by my IT students. However, to make sure everything works, we sought the help of our mechanical engineering students to put things together."
Since, the IoT enabled device has racked up a couple of gold awards at ITEX 2019, RICES 2019, I-EiE 2019 and PECIPTA 2019. Additionally, Preditack was also singled out for a special award from the Malaysian Timber industrial Board and best chapter award from I-EiE 2019.
Indeed, this is another prime example of UTP's profound career connected learning and industry collaboration. From the work we do, we foster long-term relationships with our global social-impact partners to prepare our students, people and researchers as global citizens. As a leading university in engineering, science and technology, our graduates are driven to exceed their professional objectives and contribute towards overcoming capability deficit across all sectors and industries.