MDEC, CIMB Islamic provide RM25m in financing to drive AgTech

Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah speaks during a press conference on the Emergency Ordinance in Putrajaya March 12, 2021. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah speaks during a press conference on the Emergency Ordinance in Putrajaya March 12, 2021. — Picture by Hari Anggara

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CYBERJAYA, April 2 — The Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) and CIMB Islamic Bank (CIMB Islamic) are providing RM25 million micro-financing as an initial funding package to drive the country’s agriculture ecosystem based on digital technology (AgTech).

Starting with an allocation of RM10 million, the programme offers funding of RM20,000 per applicant that will benefit 500 people and encourage farmers to adopt the use of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics (BDA) and Internet-of-things (IoT)-based applications.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said this collaboration was important to ensure digital technology could be applied quickly as part of Malaysia’s efforts to advance the digital economy in line with the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint (MyDIGITAL).

“The agricultural sector, production of quality food products and food security are important. In Malaysia, this sector has gone through a period of ups and downs due to climate change and the policies implemented.

“The government is very committed to developing the agricultural sector and the use of digital technology is one of the factors to boost performance and success,” he told reporters after witnessing the signing ceremony between MDEC and CIMB Islamic here today.

Also present were Minister of Agriculture and Food Industries Datuk Seri Dr Ronald Kiandee, MDEC chairman Datuk Dr Rais Hussin Mohamed Ariff, MDEC chief executive officer Surina Shukri and CIMB Islamic chief executive officer Ahmad Shahriman Mohd Shariff.

Following the agreement, CIMB Islamic is offering one of the lowest interest rates in agricultural financing at 3.5 per cent per annum not only to benefit existing farmers but also to encourage youths to venture into agriculture.

Saifuddin said modern agriculture concept in monitoring and management using AI and BDA such as aerial imagery, temperature and humidity sensors and fertiliser management would provide opportunities for farmers and entrepreneurs to make profits and advancing the agriculture sector to attract young people.

“This collaboration is the beginning of the next step towards transforming the agricultural sector to digitisation at the national level,” he said.

Ronald said MDEC and CIMB Islamic’s collaboration was an initiative aimed at the target group for the procurement of equipment and technology based on Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4.0) in an effort to increase the use of modern technology in every agro-food value chain as well as open new growth avenues for farmers to participate in the digital economy and reap more benefits.

“It is our great hope to see more people, especially the youth, turn to agriculture as a source of income after being affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This is because the current agricultural sector is not as previously imagined. With the use of digital technology as well as support from various agencies, agriculture is one of the lucrative sectors to explore,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rais Hussin said leveraging on the strength of the latest advances offered by AI, IoT and BDA would enable the development of a vibrant AgTech ecosystem to increase productivity, quality, cost competitiveness and farmers’ income, as well as attracting youths to enter the field of agriculture.

He said this was also to ensure the security and sovereignty of the country’s food were maintained and at the same time reduce the dependence on imported food.

“Through the MDEC pilot project, the farmers involved have seen a 22 per cent increase in crop quality and 30 per cent reduction in overall operating costs as well as a 33 per cent increase in their income,” he said.

He said MDEC, together with strategic partners, could play a role to modernise the agriculture sector in an effort to attract the participation of young people.

Therefore, he added that he had also suggested that the government rename Universiti Putra Malaysia as Universiti Pertanian Malaysia. — Bernama

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