Designing an

organic food
solution for
future cities in
Malaysia

A joint research collaboration
between IT experts in Malaysia
and the UK has produced a
prototype to grow and distribute
organic food efficiently within
cities.
If successfully commercialised,
the model has the potential to
transform the landscape of
food supply and distribution in
Malaysian cities.
Organic rice, leafy vegetables
and herbs would be grown
within well-controlled indoor
environments, and distributed
directly to urban retailers or
consumers utilising the latest
sensor, wireless and cloud
technology.
The
project’s
Malaysian
principal investigator, Dr Goh
Hock Guan, said the idea was
partly inspired by Glasgow’s
Open City concept, to utilise
data
harnessed
through
information technology to
improve the quality of life of
urban dwellers.

“We can use idle
spaces within
cities such as
Kuala Lumpur,
Penang and Johor
Bahru to grow
food, this will
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reduce delivery
cost and carbon
footprint to
transport food
from outside the
city.
And by using cloud and analytic
technology, we can build an
intelligent
transportation
system to find the best routes
to distribute the fresh produce,”
explained Goh, who is also
the head of the Department of
Computer and Communication
Technology at Universiti Tunku
Abdul Rahman (UTAR).
Abandoned
warehouses,
factories, residential buildings,
rooftops and car parks are
examples of idle spaces in
cities that can transformed into
urban, organic farms that are
energy and water efficient.

“Growing food
indoors protects it
from unpredictable
weather conditions
in outdoor
environments.
We can have sensors in the
soil to monitor and control the
amount of lighting, moisture,
temperature, irrigation and
fertilisers needed for optimum

plant growth remotely from a
computer.
The technology is not a
problem but we are trying to
prove that it’s economically
viable,” said the project’s UK
principal investigator, Prof Ivan
Andonovic, from the University
of Strathclyde in Glasgow,
Scotland.
The experts from UTAR and
the University of Strathclyde
received a one-year seed grant
from the Newton-Ungku Omar
Fund in 2015 to develop the
prototype. Other project team
members include Dr Craig
Michie, Dr Robert Atkinson and
Dr Christos Tachtatzis from
the University of Strathclyde,
and Dr Liew Soung Yue, Dr Ooi
Boon Yaik and Dr Gan Ming Lee
from UTAR.
The seed grant funded the
hiring of a research assistant at
UTAR, bilateral visits between
the Malaysian and UK experts
and a conference in March
2016 at UTAR.
The Newton Fund is part of
the UK’s official development
assistance
programme
to promote research and
innovation
for
economic
development and social welfare
in partner countries.

Under the NewtonUngku Omar Fund,
the British Council
works with the
Malaysian IndustryGovernment
Group for High
Technology (MIGHT)
to run research
programmes.
The research team has further
bid for the Newton-Ungku Omar
Research and Innovation Bridges
Competition Fund to develop
a mature smart agriculture
and intelligent transportation
system for public showcase and
commercialisation.
The researchers have enlisted the
assistance of industry partners
including Nestle Manufacturing
(M) Sdn Bhd, One Goodearth Sdn
Bhd, CEEDTec Sdn Bhd, Emperor
Developments Sdn Bhd in
Malaysia, and Greengage Lighting
Ltd and Design LED in the UK for
the next stage.

Emperor
Developments,
a
property development consultant,
will help the research team
identify a suitable idle site in Kuala
Lumpur to conduct the research.
One GoodEarth will supply the
soil-enriching microorganisms.
CEEDTec,
a
medium-size
embedded system manufacturer
from Penang, will help design
and supply the mechanical and
electronic devices needed to grow
the plants indoor.
Current status of project
Project duration: 1 April 2015 – 31
March 2016 (extended until 30
September 2016)
For Further
contact:

Information,

please

Prof Ivan Andonovic,
(Principal investigator)
i.andonovic@strath.ac.uk
Dr Goh Hock Guan
(Principal investigator)
gohhg@utar.edu.my

Goh explained that Greengage
Lighting and Design LED would
help the research team design
a purpose-built LED lighting
system for the plants while Nestle
Manufacturing would provide the
soil, seed, organic fertilisers and
industry advice on planting.

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