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Big turnout for seminar on sustainable horticulture in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia

To demonstrate the opportunities for sustainable food production, the Netherlands Embassy and local grower Greenheart Farms teamed up to organize farm tours and a seminar on “Sustainable Horticulture in the Cameron Highlands” for regional farmers and a Government delegation from Indonesia in September, with a great turnout as a result.

As one of the pillars of the mission of the Netherlands Agricultural Network is to promote sustainable production globally, contributing to sustainable local horticulture production is one of the focus areas of the regional agriculture team. Long known as the agricultural production area of Peninsular Malaysia, the Cameron Highlands is a hotspot for horticulture.

While the cooler climate in the Highlands has offered great farming opportunities for decades on end, the region is facing a multitude of challenges that will require a different way of farming. In order to increase production to meet local and neighboring demands, farms have been expanding in more recent years, challenging the lush natural environment because of land clearing. As many of the farms in the region are only partially sheltered, the production crops are easily accessible and vulnerable to a multitude of pests. The majority of the farmers treat such pests with chemical pesticides, which in turn easily divert these pests to the neighboring forests and affect biodiversity. Other challenges are the effects of climate change, including both increased and decreased rainfall, resource inefficiency, and increasing competition from neighboring countries that are fully committed to adopting high-technology methods of farming.

Within the region, Greenheart Farms has been known as a pioneer of sustainable horticulture, using techniques and technology to grow high-quality, pesticide-free vegetables. The farm is committed to environmental responsibility by efficiently utilizing power, water, and land. What’s more, Greenheart Farms is taking the lead in promoting its innovative way of farming and has demonstrated a willingness to share their knowledge with other farmers.

On the morning of Tuesday, September 26, the farm opened its doors to local growers and farmers. As the 18-hectare expansion site is the most advanced farm in Southeast Asia, many farmers had a keen interest in learning more about Greenheart’s technologies on a farm tour. During the tour, there was a demonstration of Koppert’s biological control systems for pesticide-free production. Subsequently, the party moved to the Zenith Hotel Cameron in the early evening for a buffet-style dinner followed by a two-hour seminar.

The seminar featured presentations of advanced Dutch horti-technology by Koppert on biological control systems, Hoogendoorn Growth Management on irrigation, Signify on lighting, and Agrobank on agri-finance. Dr Anne Elings, Team Leader Physiology and Product Quality, Wageningen University & Research, discussed multiple steps farmers can take to reach fully sustainable operations. He emphasized the criticality of working together and sharing knowledge within the region to develop the horticulture sector as a whole rather than working in silos. This was acknowledged by Luuk Runia, partner and co-owner of Greenheart Farms, who also discussed the importance of a change in mindset, focusing on production per square meter rather than focusing on farmland expansion. Luuk also emphasized the need to convert from low-technology to high-technology ways of farming in order to not be outpaced by other producing countries in the region.

The next day, the event was followed by a private meeting with His Royal Highness the Crown Prince and Regent of Pahang Tengku Hassanal Ibrahim Alam Shah to discuss opportunities for collaboration with the Netherlands on sustainable horticulture involving governments, the private sector, and knowledge institutions. The day was concluded by a private farm tour for Indonesian Government officials from four different ministries.

Altogether, the gathering proved to be a good starting point for exploring a new way of farming in the Cameron Highlands. As a next step, a collaboration between the region and the Netherlands is being explored for enhanced knowledge-sharing in a local center of excellence.


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