Looking into improving crop production to feed the increasing world population and ensuring food security for all, the 18th Agriculture Technology Seminar Series gathered six esteemed speakers and over 100 participants to discuss the seminar’s theme ‘The Future of Plant Science and Agriculture”. Jointly organised by Centre for Biodiversity Research (CBR), Faculty of Science (FSc) and Institute of Postgraduate Studies and Research (IPSR), the seminar kick-started with a positive note at UTARKampar Campus on 22 June 2019.
The seminar was attended by UTAR Vice President for R&D and Commercialisation Prof Ts Dr Faidz bin Abd Rahman, FSc Dean Assoc Prof Dr Lim Tuck Meng, CBR Chairperson Dr Wong Wey Lim and Organising Chairperson Prof Dr Minoru Murata.
The invited speakers were Barley and Wild Plant Resource Center Head of Institute of Plant Science Resources, Okayama University Prof Dr Kazuhiro Sato; Director of Advanced Biotechnology and Breeding Centre (ABBC) of Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) Dr Mohamad Arif Abd Manaf; Senior Lecturer from Monash University Malaysia Dr Song Beng Keh; Director of Centre for Research in Biotechnology for Agriculture (CEBAR) of University of Malaya Prof Dr Jennifer Ann Harikrishna; Manager of Group Plantation Advisory Department of Genting Plantations Berhad, Kuala Lumpur Dr Cheng Cong Rong; and CropLife Asia Singapore Executive Director Dr Tan Siang Hee.
“Crop production has taken unprecedented prominence today due to the progressive increase of the world population. The United Nations has reported that the human population is expected to increase from the current world population of 7.3 billion to 8.5 billion by 2030, and 9.7 billion by 2050. This makes it necessary for us to improve our ability to supply food to meet the needs of the expanding population. This also means that crop or food production will have to increase by 75% or more, using the same, if not smaller, land area that we presently have for agriculture. Therefore, this seminar will pay special attention to the importance of the roles played by plant science and agriculture in increasing crop production to feed the world in the future,” said Prof Faidz.
He added, “Recent advances in plant science and agriculture research have helped to deepen our understanding on how to grow plants that produce better yields. We have already applied some of these research findings to solve some of the pressing problems in agriculture and they have been crucial in ensuring global crop and food sufficiency. Nevertheless, in our endeavour to increase efficiency and productivity, agriculture today still faces a few challenges in addressing the negative impacts it has on the environment. For instance, its sustainability as well as its effect on climate change and biodiversity. I hope this seminar will not only bring solutions to overcome some of these issues, but also establish collaboration for expanding research in plant science and agriculture.”
“I am glad that we are able to continue organising this seminar, which was started by Prof Dr Peter Ooi Aun Chuan. As we organised this seminar with the aim to provide participants with a platform to share new methods and knowledge in research, we also aim to be able to contribute to the development in plant science and agriculture. With six esteemed speakers present in our midst, we are very fortunate to learn new findings and answers to issues that are faced by consumers and farmers. We will also be learning more about the recent topics in plant science which might be novel in Malaysia,” said Prof Murata
The first speaker was Prof Sato, who shared his research titled “Plant Genetic Resources and Our Lives”. His presentation highlighted the importance of plant genetic resources in our lives. He also pointed out that genetic diversity in seed crops can be efficiently stored in the genebanks and that genetic diversity is a key to improve trait for industrial importance. His research has also proven that orthologous genes may control trains in both barley and wheat as demonstrated in seed dormancy.
Dr Mohamad presented his research titled “Oil Palm: Trailblazing the Agribiotech Frontier”. His research provided insights into the application of technology in creating sustainable agriculture. He shared that DNA-centred diagnostics tools have been developed and introduced to boost the productivity of oil palms. Meanwhile, gene editing holds promise in further enhancing palm oil’s versatility in both the food and non-food industry. Participants also learnt about the oil palm industry adopting the use of big data and blockchain technology for establishing a traceable system across the palm oil supply chain, which also reinforces the industry’s commitment towards sustainable practices.
Dr Song, with his research titled “When West Meets East: Genomics and Population Genetics of Weedy Rice” studied the evolutionary mechanism and establishment of the invasive species, weeds or weedy rice. Findings from the research will be useful for advising farmers appropriately in strategies for controlling the spread of weedy rice. The findings also highlight the implications of weedy rice contamination in Southeast Asia and the urgent need for preventive measures for sustainable yield in rice crop.
The presentation by Prof Jennifer, with her research titled “Bananas for A Stressful Future: microRNA-regulated Stress Response”, emphasised the importance of improving understanding of plant stress biology through genomic and transcriptomic analyses, which has also led to the identification of several candidate stress-responsive genes that can be useful for crop improvement. Her team of researchers has also developed mRNA, sRNA and degradome transcriptomes from stress exposed banana roots to identify miRNA-regulated transcripts and transcription factor networks related to drought and salinity stress.
With Dr Cheng sharing from his research titled “Technological Innovations for Oil Palm Plantations during a Time of Weaker CPO Prices”, participants were informed of the agriculture sector moving towards industry 4.0, focusing on digital technologies, such as internet of things (IoT), drone imaging and artificial intelligence (AI). He mentioned that there is still a lacking of technological innovations for automation in oil palm plantations but the adoption of data-driven decision making has improved.
The final presentation by Dr Tan, on his research titled “Feeding Asia in the Age of Scepticism over Science” shed light on the importance of communicating ethically the facts on food safety topics. He mentioned that Asia’s farmers, industry, consumers, civil society, media members, governments and all food value chain stakeholders have a shared responsibility to ensure food safety discussions keep a keen focus on facts and science, rather than fear and sensationalised stories. Though he noted that it was not an easy task, it is critically important to make certain consumer confidence in the safety of food in Asia supported by science.
The seminar came to an end with a closing speech by Dr Lim. “We started this seminar series back in 2010. In 2011, we started the agricultural science programme and the seminar was a promotion for agricultural activities in Kampar Campus, which was meant to support the agricultural activities of the Northern Region. It supplied much food to the whole of Malaysia and it was important,” said Dr Lim.
He also praised the alumni who attended to share their knowledge and experience. He also thanked the supportive participants for their continuous support since the first seminar was organised. The participants were also encouraged to write in their suggestions and recommendations to the faculty to allow more discussion on the suggested topics.
“The presentation on the application of technology was very interesting. We come from the palm oil industry and we have been looking into this for some time now. It was a good seminar because we received much information on how to use technology to improve the palm oil industry, at the same time, we were also made aware of the policies pertaining to technological usage in plantation,” said Ooi Thiam Hue, Kampar Estate Manager of Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad.
who also expressed her interest in the use of technology and artificial intelligence in agriculture. “I very much agree with what Dr Cheng spoke because there is a need to move forward. In the past, we have been using conventional agricultural methods, but the opportunities to integrate technology into this field is increasing. I hope we will be able to build mutual collaboration with interested researchers, especially for our startup company. We want to be able to use technology to contribute to the agriculture field,” said Surya Hani binti Abdul Hamid, Managing Director of Solusi UAV Plt. She was accompanied by her colleague, Jamilah binti Basri, Sales and Marketing Director.
Click here to read about the full abstracts and presenters’ profiles.
Committee members and student helpers at the end of the event
Read about the previous seminars below:
Opening ceremony of the competition
UTAR and the Centre for Biodiversity Research of the Faculty of Science (FSc) hosted the Malaysia Institute of Food Technology (MIFT) 11th National Food Science and Technology Competition from 6 to 7 April 2019 at UTAR Kampar Campus. It was organised by MIFT.
The competition kick-started with an opening ceremony, which saw the presence of FSc Dean Assoc Prof Dr Lim Tuck Meng representing UTAR President Ir Prof Academician Dato’ Dr Chuah Hean Teik, President of MIFT Dr Koh Yew Ming, Centre for Biodiversity Research Chairperson Dr Wong Wey Lim, Organising Chairperson Dr Ong Mei Kying, MIFT Council Members, staff and participants.
The competition was participated by 16 universities including UTAR. The other 15 participating universities were Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL), Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM), Monash University Malaysia, Management and Science University (MSU), Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC), Taylor’s University, UCSI University, University College of Technology Sarawak (UCTS), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT), Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).
“We are very honoured to be given the opportunity to host this competition that showcases the innovativeness and talents of food science students. The MIFT National Food Science and Technology Competition serves as a platform for undergraduate and postgraduate students of food science, food technologist, food biotechnologist and nutritionist from private and public universities to meet, learn from each other and exchange ideas. The competition will also promote various core skills, including communication and critical thinking skills,” said Dr Ong in her speech.
“I would like to thank MIFT for the opportunity to host this 11th MIFT National Food Science and Technology Competition. It is a very significant event for our undergraduate and postgraduate students to explore new perspectives in food science and technology area. I understand that there will be five sub-competitions, namely “Postgraduate Research Paper Competition (poster)”, “Postgraduate Research Paper Competition (oral)”, “Undergraduate Oratory Competition”, “Undergraduate Food Bowl Quiz”, and “Innovative Food Product Development Competition”. These sub-competitions are not only important to spark your competitive spirit, but also boosts your critical and creative thinking skills,” said Dr Lim.
He added, “Apart from developing a research culture among students, the sub-competitions are also a useful platform for you to improve communication skills as you interact with other teams. This will establish a wide network among students, researchers and industry. As you compete with other teams, you need to bear in mind that it is not about winning, but more on what you are able to learn and apply from your experience throughout this competition. I would like to highlight one extra and important skill that you will also gain from participating in this competition - analytical skill. As researchers, this skill is very important because you need to identify and analyse the problem, further proposing effective and viable solutions.”
Dr Lim also pointed out some global issues that mankind is currently facing and urged all participants to take up their roles and responsibilities as future food science technologists to come up with effective solutions. He also urged participants to start thinking on how to create a sustainable food system to solve insufficient food supply due to the growing world population.
“So use this competition as an opportunity to relearn things that you thought you have already known; look at it from a different perspective. Extract the important aspects as you interact and compete with other teams,” advised Dr Lim.
Dr Koh expressing his delight on the increased participation during his speech
“I am very delighted to see so many participants joining this competition. Back in 2003, when the first competition took place, we only had two participating universities. Today, the number has increased eight times and we are very happy to receive participation from 16 universities. This is the highest record of participation so far, and I am looking forward to more participation in the next competition. Your participation is also a great testimony to showcase that the programme is indeed relevant to the food industries and country, and for producing high-quality graduates that will ensure safe food for consumers in Malaysia. Therefore, this event is meant to support students because we believe students are the future leaders. We proudly do so by promoting long-term strategy with the objectives to feed the world in a healthy, sustainable and profitable manner. The competition also offers students a showcase with competition and exceptional networking opportunities in a truly informal and supportive environment. So make the most out of it,” said Dr Koh in his speech. He also thanked UTAR’s organising committee for all the effort in ensuring the success of the competition.
The five sub-competitions held were Postgraduate Research Paper Competition (Oral), Postgraduate Research Paper Competition (Poster), Innovative Food Product Development Competition, Oratory Competition (no photography was allowed) and Food Bowl Quiz.
Left: Dr Koh giving a talk on improving food safety standards in Malaysia
Right: Manida introducing the new technologies used for food analysis
Two talks were also held at the event. The first talk was delivered by Dr Koh who spoke on “Food Analyst Act 2011 and Regulation 2013: Moving towards higher food safety standard through empowerment”. His talk highlighted the importance of law in monitoring and evaluating the competency of people in carrying out food analysis. He also mentioned that the council will continuously monitor registered food analyst and meet every three months to evaluate the works done by the food analysts. He also educated the participants on the Annual Practicing Certificate. Without this certificate, it would be an offence for people to practice food analysis. He pointed out that the certificate is renewed annually and is subjected to specific requirements, and that applicants must prove continuous competency. He also listed the opportunities for one who obtains the certificate, which included, recognition of qualification, public confidence, marketability and empowerment.
The second talk, titled “Digital Integration and Traceability in Modernised Food Safety Testing” was delivered by Arachem (M) Sdn Bhd representative Manida Chapkiau. Her talk aimed to introduce the most advanced technology available in food safety analysis that is currently used by the industry in producing safer food. The examples of technologies that the speaker introduced were Lightning MVP Icon, Ridasmart, Ridacube and Crest/ICE.
The Lightning MVP Icon uses ATP technology to monitor hygiene of the product. It automatically identifies the problem and gives instant data on the product monitored. The Ridasmart is a smartphone application (app), produced by R-Biopharm AG, that enables a person to do laboratory analysis in a quick, smart and convenient way. Meanwhile, the Ridacube, which is also a product of R-Biopharm AG, enables the user to conduct biochemical testing with RFID touch technology. The last technology introduced was the Automated Immunoaffinity Sample Clean Up, which is time and labour saving; increases reproducibility; improves traceability; improves quality control; and is auto injection.
From left: Dr Lim and Dr Koh delivering their closing speeches
The 11th MIFT National Food Science and Technology Competition 2019 ended with a closing ceremony and awards presentation. Present at the closing ceremony were Dr Lim, Dr Koh and MIFT Council Members, Dr Ong, staff and participants.
“Congratulations to all winners, and to the rest, I applaud you for your effort and hard work in this competition. All participants have taken up the challenge and that is a very good effort. Regardless of whether you win or not, it is about the effort you put in to improve yourself. This improvement is very important and we need it all along our lives. Hence, your participation is more important than winning the competition because to prepare for the competition, you had to learn a lot and this experience will not be gained if you have not participated nor taken up the challenges,” said Dr Lim in his speech.
He continued, “I also thank all participants who have travelled from afar; thank you for your enthusiasm. The United Nations has reminded the governments of all countries that sustainability is important for all of us, for our future and the generations to come. For this competition, you have proven your understanding of sustainability as you tried your best to conserve resources and reduce the use of materials that would harm the environment. You have even made more friends and build important networks. Once again, thank you to MIFT for this opportunity to host the competitions as well as to the sponsors for making this event a success,” said Dr Lim.
Meanwhile, Dr Koh, in his speech, expressed his appreciation to UTAR and the committee involved in making the competition a smooth one. He also encouraged all participants to sign up as MIFT members. “I am glad that the competition had provided an avenue for all participants to make friends and to hang out with each other despite the tense moment. I saw smiley faces and laughter and I am glad that everyone enjoyed the competition and most importantly, gained experience,” said Dr Koh. At the end of his speech, he announced that TAR UC will be the host for the 12th MIFT National Food Science and Technology Competition, which will be held in 2021.
The list of winners for the five sub-competitions is as below:
Winners (from second left): Foo, Seow, Nadiah
Postgraduate Research Paper Competition (Oral)
Champion: Seow Eng Keng (USM) Textural and Structural Breakdown Properties of Flour Gels and Dodol as Influenced by Honey Bee or Kelutut Bee Honey
2nd place: Nadiah Ramlan (UKM)
Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) Modified surfaces Targeted to Reduce Powder Stickiness in Spray Drying Process
3rd place: Jenny Foo Pei Yan (UCSI University)
Biocomposite using Stale Bread Incorporated with Sodium Alginate, Gellan gum, and Glycerol: Optimisation and Effect of Electron Beam Irradiation
Winners from left: Rumaisa, Yong, and Fazleen (second from right)
Postgraduate Research Paper Competition (Poster)
Champion: Rumaisa Nordin (USM)
Comparative Assessment on Black Tea Quality between Superheated Steam and Conventional Dryer
2nd place: Yong Hui Yin (USM)
The Effects of Gums on the Rheological and Textural Properties of Textured-Modified Rice Porridge
3rd place: Fazleen Izzany Abu Bakar (UTHM) Euphorbia Hirta (Ara Tanah) Tea as Functional Drink for Anti-Gout
Winners from second left: Loong, Parithyi and Sia
Champion: Parithyi Murali Tharan (UMT)
2nd place: Loong Ye Heng (USM)
3rd place: Zachary Sean Sia (Taylor’s University)
Innovative Food Product Development Competition
Champion: Taylor’s University
Product: Crunchy Jackfruit Rag Cookies
2nd place: UniSZA
3rd place: UCSI University
From left: Top scorers and top three teams
Food Bowl Quiz
Champion: Chuah Sin Yian (USM)
2nd places: Lim Pei Yiin (Monash University), Su Pick Kiong (UPM), Kong Yi Lin (UTAR)
Champion: UMS Team A
2nd place: USM Team A
3rd place: USM Team B
For more photos, click here.
MIFT is a non-profit professional body of food technologists and educators in the field of food science and technology, and other individuals involved in areas of work closely related to food technology. MIFT is the only non-governmental organisation in Malaysia that brings together food scientists and technologists.
The organisation of the National Food Science and Technology Competition are in line with MIFT's objectives to stimulate scientific and technological research in various aspects of Food Technology; to provide a medium for the exchange, discussion, publication and dissemination of information on various aspects of Food Technology; and to promote the profession through raising educational standards, promoting the scientific approach to food, and increasing public awareness of the basic role of the Food Technologists in the industry.
Since 2003, the Malaysian Institute of Food Technology (MIFT), together with a host university have been organising the MIFT Food Science & Technology Seminar biennially. This event brings Food Science and Technology, Food Science and Nutrition, Food Science and Biotechnology students from the public and private universities together in a series of friendly competitions at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels. This Seminar’s objectives are to develop research culture in FST students; to enhance competitive spirit; to boost critical thinking skills; to improve communication skills; to promote interaction among the students and to stimulate accumulation and retention of knowledge.
Since this competition first started in the year 2003 with only 2 universities competing, the number of participating universities has increased to 14 as of the year 2015 with over 400 students in attendance for the 2 day event. For 2017, the name of the event has been changed to MIFT National Food Science and Technology Competition to better reflect the nature of the event.
Esteemed educators and experts from the industry judge the various events with stringent guidelines of the competition. MIFT is involved in this process to ensure a fair and impartial competition. The winners of the Postgraduate Oral Competition and Food Bowl Quiz go on to compete in the prestigious ASEAN Food Conference and thereby gain much more exposure in an South East Asian platform.
Organizers: FSc, FEGT and Centre for Bio-Diversity Research, UTAR Kampar campus
Opening ceremony of FSc and FEGT Postgrduate Colloquium 2019
Keynote speaker Dr Sukganah (Sime Darby) giving an introduction about her research
Keynote speaker Dr Yorozuya (Public Works Research Institute, Japan) presenting findings from his research
Invited speakers (from left) Dr Leong (FEGT), Dr Sin (FEGT), and Dr Tan (FSc) presenting their research