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The QIU Sustainable Agri-Research team made quite an impact on local agricultural innovators and technologists last weekend after they debuted a mini-hydroponic and tower fertigation system that could be a boon for precision farming.

The team, led by Dr Teh Chui Yao and assisted by Dr Wendy Liu, Dr Ranjetta Poobathy and Mr Ricky Hor, presented the system at the launch of the Elliance i4.0 Technology Centre in Batu Kawan, Penang on Feb 29.

The centre will act as a one-stop centre for IR4.0 technologies, aiming to provide comprehensive training, consultancy and solutions development to SMIs and SMEs to promote the implementation and adoption of IR4.0 technologies.

What are hydroponic and fertigation systems? Well, simply put, hydroponics is the system of growing plants without soil. Instead, it uses water, nutrients and a medium for growth. The basic idea is to reduce the obstacles between the roots, the nutrients and oxygen.

Meanwhile, fertigation is the precise application of nutrients through irrigation. Again, this process makes it easier for the plant to absorb the nutrients.

Dr Teh and her team produced the system based on their experience managing the hydroponic and fertigation systems at our own QIU Sustainable Agri- Research facility.

Their scaled-down version was augmented further by Elliance Sdn Bhd, who added smart biosensors that monitored real-time data on important plant growth, environmental and soil physicochemical parameters such as temperature, pH, nutrient content as well as electrical conductivity.

The team spent two days to assemble the systems on-site. Plants selected for the display included butterhead lettuce, green lettuce, red coral lettuce, and red amaranth.

The precision farming model attracted lots of attention on the day of the event, which was launched by Dato’ Seri Wong Siew Hai, Chairman of the Electrical and Electronics Productivity Nexus, Malaysia Productivity Corporation (MPC); Dato’ Dr Ooi Eng Hock, Chairman of the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers, Penang Branch; Mr Zahid Ismail, Deputy Director-General of MPC and Mr Cheng Boon Seng, Director and CEO of Elliance Sdn. Bhd.

Intrigued by the system, technologists and agriculturists were seen flocking to the QIU Biotechnology team. Many expressed their interest in purchasing such systems for targeted long-term and sustainable vegetable production.

This was part of QIU’s partnership with IR 4.0 solution provider Elliance, where both parties agreed to facilitate exchanges of ideas and facilities, including attachment and mutual visits by staff members to pursue research and curriculum development, sharing of laboratory facilities and academic materials, and/or participation in relevant seminars, conferences and workshops.

After turning heads at the launch, we’re confident that QIU’s Sustainable Agri-Research will be able to attract more such projects, especially in light of issues such as soil pollution and land scarcity. Modern agriculture techniques will pave the way for better food production in the future, where QIU Sustainable Agri-Research hopes to become a leader.

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