Aquaponic Farming Promises Higher Yields For Kundasang Farmers

Aquaponic Farming Promises Higher Yields For Kundasang Farmers

In the cool, hilly area of Kundasang in Ranau, about 100 kilometers from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, a small group of young farmers are trying their hand at cultivating vegetables using aquaponic and hydroponic techniques.
Under the guidance of the Kinabalu Area Farmers Organisation (PPK), the farmers based in Kampung Desa Aman in Kundasang have gone into aquaponics and hydroponics since December 2019.
Their ventures are proving to be lucrative and PPK Kinabalu intends to encourage more young farmers to grow vegetables using these modern and more sustainable techniques. According to PPK Kinabalu general manager Muhammad Irwan Maruji, in aquaponics the whole cultivation process, starting from planting the seedlings until they are ready for harvesting, takes only about three to four weeks. And, he added, vegetables harvested from a 223-square meter block of aquaponic plants can rake in sales of around RM5,600 a month. “The capital to start an aquaponics venture, including setting up the pond and a 223-sq m block and greenhouse, comes to about RM85,000. The investment, however, is worthwhile when compared to the returns,” he told Bernama, adding that aquaponic farming is suitable for young entrepreneurs who want to get involved in agriculture.

hydroponic farm
hydroponic farm

In aquaponic farming, aquaculture (rearing of aquatic animals such as freshwater fish or prawns in tanks) is combined with hydroponics (cultivating plants without soil) in an integrated system where the aquatic waste serves as nutrients for the plants which, in turn, purifies the water in the tank.

Pointing out that vegetable farmers in Kundasang and other parts of Sabah were badly hit during the initial stage of the Movement Control Order, Muhammad Irwan said under the federal government’s Prihatin Rakyat Economic Stimulus Plan (Prihatin), each PPK in Sabah was allocated RM100,000 to RM200,000 to revitalise the agricultural sector.

“We are grateful for the allocation as it will be very helpful to the farmers and agro entrepreneurs here,” he said, adding that PPK Kinabalu plans to use the funds to start an additional hydroponic venture involving the local farmers, as well as introduce maize cultivation and a hanging fertigation system next month.

He said courses on aquaponic and hydroponic farming will be conducted starting early next month, following which he hopes to rope in at least 20 young farmers a year to pursue aquaponic and hydroponic ventures. “PPK Kinabalu also plans to expand the market for their vegetable produce to the outside of Sabah,” he added.

Elaborating on PPK Kinabalu’s aquaponics venture with local farmers on a 2.83-hectare site in Kampung Desa Aman, Muhammad Irwan said vegetables such as red coral lettuce, green coral lettuce, mustard plant, and celery are being cultivated as they are suitable for aquaponic farming. As for the aquatic component, ikan tilapia and ikan keli are being reared.

“Aquaponic vegetables are chemical-free as no other fertilizer is used with the exception of the fish waste.

“For this farming technique, we need not use much water and the plants mature faster and yield higher quality produce,” he said, adding that they also plan to sell the ikan tilapia once they mature.

“So, eventually this project will enable us to ‘kill two birds with one stone’.”

Sabah State Farmers Organisation (PPN) acting general manager Mohd Sabri Jalaludin, meanwhile, said with the allocation his agency received under Prihatin, they plan to implement a cattle fattening project which is expected to have a positive impact on the state’s economic cycle. He said Sabah PPN has expertise in the livestock industry as it has been involved in it for over 10 years. For the new project, the agency plans to buy 40 head of cattle from cattle rearers within the state in a bid to support local businesses.

Under the first phase of the project, expected to kick off next month, the cows will be fed palm kernel cake or palm kernel expeller, wheat husk, and soy residue to fatten them. Once they attain a minimum weight of 320 kilograms each, they will be sold at RM4,000 to RM5,000 each.

Mohd Sabri added that in view of the project’s potential to contribute to the growth of the state’s Gross Domestic Product, they plan to increase the cattle to 320 heads by 2021.

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