Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, hosted its second edition of the International Conference on Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Sarawak (ICAAS) on October 23 and 24 at the Penview Convention Centre (PCC). It was part of the larger nine-day Sarawak AgroFest 2018 - a premier agricultural festival combining conferences, business matching and related educational activities, which began on October 20.
This year, the two-day conference was themed "Transforming the Agriculture Sector through Smart Farming". Some 1,000 local farmers travelled in from the state's 12 divisions to acquire the latest knowledge on new agricultural technologies, networking and exchanging ideas with nearly 800 participants comprising students, professors, government organisations and private companies in the field.
Business events as catalyst
Sarawak spends about RM3 billion (US$720 million) annually importing food to meet local demands.
"We want to turn agriculture into a commodity," said Chew Chang Guan, general manager of Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB).
"When foreign experts come, they bring fresh entrepreneurial, digital or marketing ideas," he added.
AgroFest also included an agriculture-based familiarisation trip, with SCB hosting 40 experts from the region.
Farming for the future
The main programme at the PCC Hall featured presentations on modern commercial methods and best practices from the region, as well as community-based agricultural enterprises and youth participation in the industry. A major crowd-puller was the Smart Farming Pavilion - popular with the younger farmers - where companies highlighted technologies using drones, solar power and fertigation systems.
Other interesting exhibitors included local startups Meliponie, producer of stingless bee honey, and WormingUp, which utilises insect farms to reduce food waste efficiently and sustainably.
The ICAAS also featured several fun exhibits. A mini zoo allowed visitors to get up close and personal with livestock like cattle, poultry and fowl, and they even had the option to get on a leisurely horse ride.
Rows of vendors also enthralled attendees with some of Sarawak's famous produce and products, including bird's nest, chillis, pineapples, white pepper and honey. Hungry from the conference, delegates made frequent visits to the Sarawak Kitchen - an expansive open-air area packed with 40 food vendors serving local favourites such as kolo mee, satay and dabai-flavoured ice-cream, made from one of the most exotic fruits in Malaysia.
Event: International Conference on Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Sarawak 2018
Venue: Penview Convention Centre (PCC), Demak, Kuching
Date: October 23-24, 2018
Event size: 1,822 attendees
Organiser: Sarawak State Government