Integrating the fragmented sector at the national and state levels with digital efficiencies and analytics can boost food industry resilience, growth

In an effort to consolidate and build up the resilience of the country’s agro-food sector, increase agricultural output, and uplift the livelihoods of farmers and the wider community in the state, a new technology-driven agrofood ecosystem has been established by Johor Corporation (JCorp).

Located in Ulu Tiram, the FarmByte Food Hub was officially launched on 13 March 2023 by YB Dato’ Zahari Sarip, Chairman, Agriculture, Agro-based Industry and Rural Development Committee, as the official representative of YAB Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi, Menteri Besar Johor.

Datuk Syed Mohamed Syed Ibrahim, President & Chief Executive, JCorp and Chairman of FarmByte, said the newly launched food hub will “allow for the sustainable production of high-quality and high-value agrofood products. Through digitalization and innovation, it will also help uplift the livelihoods and standards of living of our smallholder farmers, while encouraging the participation of the younger generation in the agrofood sector. It is a key part of the state’s strategy to develop a sustainable agrofood industry that can compete at the international level in terms of production and product efficiency and quality.”

Creating efficiencies, transparency and trust

At the heart of the food hub is a fully networked ecosystem of farmers, processors, distributors, retailers, and wholesalers connected via a hybrid setting of physical and digital hubs. This is to integrate all the activities throughout the value chain — from production to distribution — while creating efficiencies, transparency, and trust.

Also, to meet the expected increase in production, a new Collection Processing Packaging Centre and two new Collection Distribution Centres will be built by FarmByte. According to Datuk Syed Mohamed, FarmByte will use innovative technology as an enabler to equip farmers with simple digital tools; market intelligence; and real-time production schedules to help them navigate the currently fragmented agrofood sector in order to accelerate their growth. He said: “Our mobile app, for instance, provides farmers with access to personalized advice and analytics and helps to expand their knowledge of expert farming practices.”

One of the beneficiaries is farmers in the trial, Yusaini Ali, who owns 6.3 hectares in Felda Ulu Tebrau, said many smallholders struggle to navigate the complex agrofood business: “Until now, many smallholder farmers like me have relied on experience and the limited market knowledge we have as to what we produce for market and when it will be ready. Being part of the FarmByte Food Hub will give us certainty about what to plant, and when demand will be highest — so we can get the best price. The tools and analytics provided will enable us to maximize production and make our businesses more efficient. It will enhance our farming skills and knowledge and make us even better farmers,” Yusaini Ali said.