Adopting AI technology to address Food Security
By —Muhammad Arshad bin Hassni
The country is currently facing two (2) challenges namely climate change and food security that require high technology intervention.
These two challenges are interlinked which can have adverse effects if no careful long-term planning is done.
Furthermore, Malaysia’s high dependence on food sources from abroad, valued at over RM60 billion in 2021, can pose a high risk in the event of an economic or health crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Climate change can lead to rising temperatures, unpredictable rainfall patterns, and an increase in the frequency and intensity of natural disasters such as floods and droughts, which affects the agricultural sector and ultimately affects the amount of crops in the market.
This can lead to an increase in food prices in the market, which will eventually increase the cost of living.
A sustainable solution needs to be developed and implemented to ensure that agricultural production can meet domestic food demand and thereby reduce dependence on imported food.
Therefore, the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MOSTI) has the responsibility to lead the country in finding solutions to these challenges.
A Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) based approach not only protects the people from the negative effects of disasters, but it also drives the country’s economy and improves the quality of life for the people.
The capability of STI foresight based on data is crucial in providing response mechanisms to current challenges such as climate change and food security. This is to ensure that the country can provide more efficient mitigation and adaptation plans to deal with these challenges.
At the same time, MOSTI needs to explore the development of new, high-tech technologies that can be applied and commercialized in the industrial sector to address these challenges.
In line with the statement of the Minister of MOSTI, Tuan Chang Lih Kang during a media conference after the recent Majlis Amanat 2023, focus needs to be given to the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to address current challenges in line with the Artificial Intelligence National Direction Plan 2021-2025 (AI-RMAP).
“Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology can help us solve the big problems we face now, particularly food security and climate change,” said Chang Lih Kang.
AI technology is considered as a future technology that will play an important role in driving the economy and creating high-skilled talents.
According to Markets and Markets Research, the global AI market value is estimated to reach USD190 billion by 2025. This should encourage more industry players to be involved in the development of AI technology given its ability to be commercialized both domestically and internationally.
The rapid development of AI technology also demands the need for new talents to venture into the industry which offers high salary and income.
The application of AI technology in the agriculture industry has led to the introduction of new methods such as precision agriculture that utilizes machine learning and the Internet of Things (IoT) for planting and crop management. These advancements are expected to increase crop yields and ensure that resources are managed more efficiently.
Additionally, AI-based technologies such as drones, sensors, and irrigation systems can be developed to optimize crop yields.
The 2020 Government AI Readiness Index by Oxford Insights puts Malaysia at number one in Southeast Asia and number 28 globally. This shows the great potential the country has in developing AI technology and becoming a major player globally.
Government support, the presence of local talents and skills, research and development (R&D) sector and industry involvement are some of the key factors that will contribute to the development of AI technology in the country.
Therefore, to ensure the development of AI technology in the country, it certainly requires support from start-ups and industry players who need to adapt to the new culture based on innovation. The digital and AI-based transformation of the agriculture sector can increase the capacity of food production in the country and thus address the food security challenge, while also generating good returns for companies and businesses.
Setting the direction through AI-RMAP proves MOSTI’s commitment in exploring AI technology to drive development in various sectors including the agricultural industry. MOSTI will work closely with agencies and industry players in an effort to create a conducive AI innovation ecosystem to accelerate the adoption of AI technology.
Given the potential and market opportunities, AI technology can be one of the drivers for the formation of a high-tech nation by 2030, in line with the National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (DSTIN) 2021-2030.
It is also in line with the aspirations of Tuan Chang Lih Kang, the Minister of MOSTI, who wants to see the country take a proactive approach through the application of AI technology in addressing current issues and challenges of the nation.
The writer of this statement is Muhammad Arshad bin Hassni, Press Secretary to the Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation, Tuan Chang Lih Kang.
He holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in Materials Engineering from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, and a Bachelor of Economics from Universiti Malaya.
The views and article expressed are those of the writer(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of ANT
Pix credit –Mike MacKenzie via Creative Commons