As the largest smart durian farm in Malaysia, Musang Valley Plantation Sdn Bhd (MVP) aims to be the torchbearer of smart and sustainable durian plantations in ASEAN.
When Nelson Neo and Calvin Ngai decided to venture into durian farming, it wasn’t just with a view to selling Musang King durians in a highly lucrative market. Their plan went beyond that to encompass the entire ecosystem from selecting the seeds to harvesting; and digitalizing the entire process from farm to consumer.
“Besides aiming to be the ‘greenest’ durian plantation in Malaysia, we also target to design the most advanced Standard Operating System (SOP) as a guide for other durian farmers. Through this, we hope to take durian farming in Malaysia to the next level,” says Musang Valley Plantation Sdn Bhd (MVP)’s co-founder, Nelson, of their company’s vision.
Farming Method 4.0
To achieve that, the team, headed by fellow MVP co-founder and serial entrepreneur Calvin and him, has explored the entire gamut of the smartest technologies in farming. Among some of the sleekest technology employed by them are smart irrigation system, traceable individual trees which are tagged with QR code, robot weed killers for difficult-to-reach places and agricultural drones to distribute the pesticides and fertilizers. Connecting all these together is a Smart App that uses IoT and a sensor system to track and monitor the trees.
“We have a record of everything that we do to the tagged trees including their exact GPS location. Each of our durians can also be traced back to our farm to verify its origin,” Nelson adds.
“This is the power of IoT which we are harnessing including our satellite connection which is constantly on the lookout for common durian diseases such as fungus infection which can destroy the trees. Furthermore, the system we have adopted can monitor the environment such as predicting the rainfall and observing the amount of moisture.”
As the largest durian plantation in Malaysia at 2,710 acres, it is crucial to adopt smart technology to manage the farm. “Otherwise, it would be too labour-intensive and too manual-driven to achieve the best result,” Nelson continues.
“Precision in terms of the amount of nutrients, fertiliser and water needed by the durian trees, as well as the perfect temperature and its location on a slope are key to the best flavoured durians with the highest yield,” adds Calvin.
“On top of the tracking and research, we are also constantly monitoring the health of the soil and water through our sensor system. We send the soil and water to the laboratory for tests on a regular basis.”
Calvin describes this high-tech management as Farming Method 4.0, compared to the current Farming Method 1.0 practised in many traditional farms in Malaysia.
Underlying this push to smart tech is the company’s belief that the farm can only unlock its fullest potential if it practises sustainability in all its processes. Towards this end, the management has made considerable investments in a solar power system to power up the entire farm. They also harvest the rainwater and have several retention ponds on site.
Other trees like soursop and the fast-growing Albasia are planted on plots with elevation that’s not suitable for the durian trees. They help to maintain crop diversity and soil health, as well as for timber supply in the case of Albasia. More trees also means the farm is generating a lot of oxygen and absorbing a lot of carbon dioxide, thus contributing to the fight against global warming.
Logistics is crucial for any durian farm as the durians need to reach the consumer while still fresh. Hence, the company is also investing in robotics to speed up the process of transporting the durians from the trees to the main road. Eventually, they will be investing in a nitrogen freezer to process the durians for export.
Apart from Musang King (MK), the company plans to plant Blackthorn and Tupai King variants as well. The first harvest of MK is expected to be in 2022 between July and September when the trees will be about five years old. These are existing trees that were there when MVP bought over the land which is located in the Lojing Highlands, between Gua Musang in Kelantan and Cameron Highlands, Pahang. It usually takes between 4 -6 years to grow from seedlings to matured durians.
Hence, early bird investors via participation in MVP’s equity crowdfunding platform could start enjoying the durians from year one due to the existing trees bearing fruits. The launching is expected to be held in January 2022 which will ensure the investors have sufficient time to enjoy the first harvest.
Assessing the company’s strengths, Calvin nails them to the management’s vast experience in every aspect of durian farming, the ready infrastructure including smart tech and man-made lakes, and existing durians that can be harvested as early as mid-2022. Indeed, the harvesting of durians is a much- anticipated annual event for durian lovers.
“In the meantime, all the investor needs to do is just relax and wait for the guaranteed ‘durian runtuh’, Calvin quips, referring to a Malay idiom which means an unexpected windfall.