SERDANG: The adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) in the country's agro-food sector needs to be strengthened to address the current challenges faced by the agricultural industry, including the shortage of manpower and the rise in fertiliser and pesticide prices.

Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industries Agriculture Modernisation Division secretary, Roshidi Mat Moor said the use of IoT can create precision agriculture thus increasing productivity and farming output.

"...we can't forever be dependent on foreign labour because if the workers' country of origin does not allow them to work here, what will happen? Agricultural activities still need to continue, so IoT technologies are needed because they can replace human labour.

"IoT will also help create precise agriculture that will result in the increase in agricultural production with the use of fewer fertilisers and pesticides," he told Bernama when met at the Agro Technology cluster at the Malaysia Agriculture, Horticulture and Agrotourism Exhibition (Maha) 2022, here today.

Elaborating, Roshidi said the adoption of IoT in the agro-food sector which is in line with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0) is related to data and smart agriculture.

"In terms data, previously we used a tool to measure soil moisture, but through IoT, we can directly send the data to smartphones before being used as a big data to be studied to help increase crop productivity and production.

"Apart from that, the use of drones in the agricultural sector can detect plant diseases early, thus allowing appropriate action (to stop infections) to be taken," he said.

Roshidi said blockchain technology would also be used in the agro-food sector to monitor or trace the agricultural product supply chain at every level just like how customers track their online orders.

Admitting that the use of IoT among farmers is still low, Roshidi said agricultural entrepreneurs and the government need to play a role in increasing the IoT usage.

"IoT is still new...maybe the government needs to intensify its promotional efforts through various platforms such as MAHA.

"In addition, Agrobank has introduced the Agrofood Value Chain Modernisation programme, a financing facility for farmers who want procure equipment and technology based on IR 4.0," he said.

The Agro Technology segment at MAHA 2022 showcases the use of the latest equipment and technology in agriculture, including drones for fertiliser application, pesticide spraying, as well as field mapping and monitoring.

It also showcases various sustainable farming methods such as hydroponic, aquaculture, vertical farming, vermiponics and aeroponic gardening for an efficient integrated agricultural ecosystem.