Malaysian agritech: Precision farming with AI, IoT and 5G

For a company that grows and delivers vegetables, Boomgrow Productions Sdn Bhd’s office is nothing like a farm, or even a vertical farm. Where farms are bedecked with wheelbarrows, spades and hoes, Boomgrow’s floor plan is akin to a co-working space with a communal island table, several cubicles, comfortable armchairs, a cosy hanging rattan chair and a glass-walled conference room in the middle.

At a corner, propped up along a walkway leading to a rectangular chamber fitted with grow lights, are rows of support stilts with hydroponic planters developed in-house and an agricultural technologist perched on a chair, perusing data. “This is where some of the R&D work happens,” says Jay Dasen, co-founder of the agritech start-up.

But there is a larger farm where most of the work behind this high-tech initiative is executed. Located a stone’s throw from the city centre in Ampang is a 40ft repurposed shipping container outfitted with perception technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities that mimic the ideal environment to produce more than 50,000kg of vegetables a year.

Stacked in vertical layers, Boomgrow’s vegetables are grown under artificial lights with Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to detect everything from leaf discolouration to nitrate composition. This is coupled with AI and machine learning algorithms. Boomgrow is the country’s first 5G-connected vertical farm. With the low latency and larger bandwidth technology, the start-up is able to monitor production in real time as well as maintain key para­meters, such as temperature and humidity, to ensure optimal growth conditions.

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