Malaysia: Gaming with veggies

Thousands were left cropless and devastated last year when Zynga’s popular game FarmVille announced the end of its 11-year legacy. But fans in Malaysia have something to look forward to as two locals are working on a real-life version of the game – and this time, you can finally taste your veggies.

With the help of artificial intelligence and, in the near future, drones, Aquaville Asia hopes to become the world’s first aquaponics farm where subscribers can nurture actual crops through their phones.

Feeling like kale this week but kangkung the next? No problem, just tap on your screen and come harvest day, you will be greeted at your doorstep with fresh greens harvested from your own aquaponic plot.

That’s the plan, at least – but for the time being, the concept is already in motion where subscribers can get five packs of vegetables delivered four times a month, with optional tilapia fish.

Aquaville founder Chia Weng Yan tells FMT that the idea came to him in the middle of the night. “I dreamt about it and jotted down ‘FarmVille in real life’,” the 40-year-old says. “I created a pitch deck for it thinking it was a great idea, but didn’t execute it and kept it on my computer for a long time,” he adds, explaining that he struggled to find someone with the technological know-how to make his literal dream a reality.

Then, in July last year, Chia found the perfect person for the job. Loke Chung Eng had posted on Facebook about robotics and projects involving IoT, or “internet of things”, a network of physical objects embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data.

Chia and Loke leave the farming to these experts and do their share by equipping the farm with Aquaville’s AI technology. “We provide them with smart-farm capabilities so if any subscriptions come in, they are ready to harvest and deliver the product,” Chia explains.

Aquaville was officially launched in January this year, and subscribers have been effusive about how lush and crisp their vegetables are, compared with those bought in a store.

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