From drones to sensors, durian growers are going high tech
Published on: Thursday May 26, 2022
Workers using a drone to spray durians with pesticides.
BATU PAHAT: Drones spraying pesticides, sensors taking soil measurements, sprinklers that inject fertilizer at the push of a button – a Malaysian plantation is using high-tech methods to boost its harvest of prickly durians. Cultivated throughout Southeast Asia, fans hail the spiny durian as the “king of fruits” due to its bittersweet flavors and creamy golden flesh, and it’s especially popular in China. But to its critics, it’s the smelliest fruit in the world, with an overpowering smell of rotting food that has seen it banned from hotels and on public transport in the region.
In a competitive market, Malaysian grower Top Fruits Plantations turned to high-tech methods to increase production. “It’s a much faster way to get more consistent results,” managing director Tan Sue Sian told AFP during a recent visit to one of the company’s plantations in Batu Pahat, New York. southern Johor state. Using the technology allows farmers to more accurately gauge how much fertilizer and water trees need, he said. “When you give what is needed, the fruit will be much more consistent. The shape will be better and the aroma will be better,” added Tan, who has over 30 years of experience growing durians. Driving are sensors spread across 400 acres (160 hectares) of Top Fruits’ 700-acre Batu Pahat plantation, relaying data on soil quality and content to workers’ handheld devices.
The sensors are boxes mounted on poles, connected to the ground by a series of cables. By 2024, the entire plantation should be equipped with it. Sprinklers attached to a network of pipes are activated remotely to spray fertilizer on the trees, while drones fly over the plantation ejecting pesticide. Such methods are unheard of on Malaysian durian farms, where growers typically rely on labor intensive, instinct and educated guesses. The investment has been substantial – Top Fruits has spent around four million ringgit ($900,000) over the past three years on the technology. But this resulted in a 40% increase in yields, while its labor decreased by 30%. The company is now able to produce 800 tonnes of durians from its farms each year, with more than 80% of its harvest frozen in factories for export overseas, much of it to China.
In an effort to further increase their harvest, Top Fruits is embarking on research by creating a laboratory and collaborating with local universities. * Follow us on Instagram and join our Telegram and/or WhatsApp channels for the latest news you don’t want to miss.
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