IoT Smart-Farming Japanese Muskmelons In M’sia
It was a hot and hot morning when we drove to Presint 19 in Putrajaya. We weren’t thrilled with the heat, but it was on that same heat that the premium Arus musk melons that grow at Mono Premium Melon (Mono) thrived.
In our climate, up to 3-4 cycles of this melon can be grown, a much larger yield than what Japanese farmers can get with their summer season alone.
But weather alone can’t grow a melon, so Mono’s 3 experienced co-founders – Yeo Chen Swee, Seh Cheng Siang, and Mohd Sofian bin Ali – came together to find a smart farming system.
We were there for a farm tour and to harvest our own RM168 melon.
200 locations were opened for the first public batch harvest of Mono, so it can be assumed that for this harvest they have already made just over 33,000 RM in revenue.
However, this only touches the surface of Mono’s actual mission and revenue strategy.
Precision agriculture with Japanese techniques
For consumers, of course, these Japanese melons are the star of the show. But few understand and appreciate the care and technology required to grow each one.
Mono’s IoT (Internet of Things) farm allows them to carry out precision farming, which these Arus melons need. “No more agak-agakSeh commented, referring to more relaxed farming methods used to grow regular melons.
With the IoT setup, the team can remotely monitor the status of each growing melon on their smartphones. They can adjust the amount of nutrients or water a plant needs, change the composition of the fertilizer, and even monitor the temperature in the greenhouse.
Mono also calls it a plant-driven system, in which the plants decide for themselves when they need to be fed, and the smart valves in the Autopots they grow in will facilitate the flow of a large reservoir. .
In addition to nutrition, relaxing music is played in the greenhouse for plant growth (Japanese farmers also use this technique). Growing melons are polished and massaged weekly with a Nexcare Facial Glove to stimulate smoothness and give a more “3D” trickle to the surface.
We take care of [the melons’] health, and they will take care of our pocket.
Yeo Chen Swee, co-founder of Mono.
Even with the details that go into precision farming, the result can still be unpredictable and there is no 100% guarantee for the crops. Due to weather conditions, sudden rotting and other uncontrollable factors, melons are in danger until they are harvested.
The advantage of Mono is that the groundwork to reduce these risks has been done with over 15 years of experience in melon cultivation.
With the IoT app, just monitor and make adjustments once a day. Yeo added, “Actually, we can preset for the whole month or week, even up to a cycle. It reduces a lot of human error because after the damage is done it is very difficult to recover.
With little room for error, why grow this particular melon?
“[We chose this seed] because it’s the hardest to plant, but we want to challenge it. We have the confidence, the tools, that’s why we picked the hardest just to prove it’s possible, ”said Seh.
More than proving it to themselves, they wanted to set an example for other Malaysian farmers.
Share the fruits of their labor
Overall, Mono wants to equip interested farmers with the knowledge and technology to grow these rare and premium melons in Malaysia.
“This is the main goal of Mono farms: we have a platform on which we set up our concept of Mono farms, and recently we actually launched an investment start-up program for small farmers.” , Seh revealed.
This means that interested farmers with 1,200 square feet of land can hire Mono to build their own IoT-enabled farm and grow 400 premium melons in one cycle.
Soil type does not matter either, as melons are grown in Autopots with a soilless environment. You can have them on your porch or even on your roof.
One setup costs around 68k RM, with the same monitoring system Mono uses. “We can set up in a week, after that you can start planting the next day. In 3 months, you will be producing the first batch of Japanese melons, ”Seh said.
Seeds and fertilizer have a separate cost, with seeds costing RM3 each and sold exclusively by Mono. Mono’s support doesn’t stop there, as it can also help you monitor the well-being of your plants through the IoT system and CCTV.
If Mono’s strategy works as expected, we’ll see more farms replicating the Mono farm concept. The team has already worked hard to find solutions that work and give others a chance to achieve the same quality without all the challenges that come with it.
“Mono farm [provides] a platform and opportunity for the younger generation or newcomers to this industry. So they join the Mono community [to know the] implementation for the farm, plantation, technical know-how, up to marketing. It’s a unique solution for agriculture, ”said Seh.
This is why melon is just a starter in Mono’s plans, the real business model here is to grow more farms using the Mono farm concept, starting with Arus melons.
However, Mono will not work as a middleman. Farms are encouraged to sell their own fruit with their own brand in order to shorten the supply chain, which is another of Mono’s goals.
With a shorter supply chain, they can better educate end consumers about the labor involved in growing the fruit and how to consume and enjoy it properly.
For example, we learned during the farm tour how melon changes in texture, sweetness, juiciness and aroma from the first to sixth day after harvest.
Contrary to the popular perception that bigger is better, there is no grading system for Mono melons. Mono has standardized their crop size to 1.4-1.8kg per melon, but even with smaller or larger melons they are supposed to taste the same.
Be sustainable and scalable
To be in this industry for the long term, the Mono team believes that sustainable agriculture starts with farmers making a profit first. Only then can farmers think about sustainability in other forms to protect the environment, reduce waste, etc.
Seh shared a few examples of how farmers can market their melons:
- Make an open day of picking and harvesting, like the visit of the farm that we experienced.
- Sell them through e-commerce.
- Allow families to “adopt” a melon plant from the beginning until it is harvested for their consumption.
In terms of scalability, when new farmers are more confident after their small melon farm is successful, Mono can help expand the farm to increase melon production.
Mono plans to expand by eventually introducing other premium melon species that are not common in Malaysia. By teaching existing and new farmers in their mono community to grow these new melons as well, they too can increase their source of income.
We mentioned that one of our parents had a farm in Bukit Beruntung with their own vegetables and fruits. In keeping with their mission to cultivate more local farmers for this Japanese melon, they joked, “We [have brought] From Japan to Putrajaya, we can take Putrajaya to Bukit Beruntung. “
- You can read more about Mono Premium Melon here.
- You can read our other agritech articles here.
All image credits: Vulcan Post
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