University Startup Challenge 2021: Farm Nation

Contact: Dinie

Developing smart container farms to pivot local farmers to grow more efficient and nutritious food to fight food loss and food security.


RM 515

pledge of RM 10,000 goal

9 September 2021 24 October 2021

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Project Summary

Farm Nation is a smart vertical hydroponic container farming company which aims to pivot our nation's farmers to opt into using modern smart farms to increase efficiency and overcome our nation's problems of food loss and food security.

 

Who Are We?

We are a group of engineering students from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), with the drive to improve the nation's farming practices. With the rise of AI and IoT applications, our team will be able to achieve more efficient farming while being sustainable. The team have an array of skills and knowledge ranging from multiple disciplines such as mechanical engineering, aerospace and computer systems. We also have 2 advisors who are from the Faculty of Agriculture, UPM who specializes in the business and technical aspect of Malaysia's agriculture industry. This completes the team and would ensure the success of the project. 

This crowdfund is part of University Startup Challenge 2021 which we are enrolled in with MaGIC and Youth Ventures Asia.

The Problem

The situation our farmers are struggling with now are the unpredictable weather conditions and market shifts that are beyond their control where recently, local farmers are not able to sell their produce, due to the pandemic and distruption in supply chain. This not only affects the farmers but it also affects our families that will now have to rely on other food sources besides fresh vegetables. Businesses are also affected by this as their supply of vegetables are now not reliable and will run into shortages without a stable consistent supply. With farmers not being able to sell their produce, this will lead to major losses in harvested vegetables and the farmers will lose thousands of ringgit. 

Indoor farming has been proven to be reliable and efficient but it does come with several cons such as high expenses in rent and utilities. Another worrying aspect is the gap of understanding and acceptance of modern farming practices being adopted by local farmers which have been relying on their conventional methods for generations. 

 

Farm Nation The Solution

Farm Nation will overcome this by introducing container farming that only requires 320sqf and affordable operation costs by utilizing AI and IoT to consistently grow fresh vegetables year round. Not to mention the farm only requires 5 Litres of water per day. By offering the farm without any upfront cost along with training, it will be attractive for farmers. We will be utilizing profit sharing with the farmers where we will help with channeling customers and marketing in order to maximize on the farmers profits each harvest cycle. Farm Nation will advice on what to grow and when to sell based on preliminary market studies and plan out planting and harvesting schedules for the farmers to maximize production. We are able to achieve this by the design layout and smart farming operation procedures of the farm. The climate control systems will enable the farm to grow 300 varieties of vegetables regardless of the weather and the enclosed area will be 100% pest free. Because of this, we will be able to adopt a subscription based business model to sell the produce even before harvest. 

 

Our Value

Farm Nation's farms are unique because of how efficient and sustainable we are able to grow our produce. Each farm will only take 320sqf to operate and will be able to grow 1 ton a month. With utilizing AI and IoT, we are able to grow 8,800 plants consistently and will be able to monitor the produce 24/7 remotely. Our farms will be scheduled so that only 1 person is needed per day to operate the farm for only 3~4 hours which includes planting, harvesting, maintenance and planning. Our produce will be 100% pesticide free and will be delivered the same day as we harvest them so our consumers will recieve their produce in the most nutritious and fresh state. 

Our Vegetables

We will be selling our vegetables on a subscription basis where there will be a waiting list a month prior to harvest. We also will sell one-off vegetable boxes. Our subscribers will recieve weekly boxes delivered to them fresh within 5 hours of harvest. Customers will need to subscribe through our website and choose the dates of when they want their boxes delivered. The boxes will have different varieties of vegetables depending on demand and will consist of 2~4 mix lettuces and 4~6 small vegetables (arugula, kale, spinach, etc.). 

The Journey

Stage 1 - This trial stage is where we are growing vegetables with simple hydroponic systems and interacting with the public and farmers to collect data on how to meet their expectations and better develop the business and farm design.

Stage 2 - The prototype stage have 3 phases where the 1st phase we will start building the container farm in UPM and start selling to consumers. The 2nd phase will be validating the capabilities of the farm and further improve the farm. The 3rd and final phase will have local farmers test out the farm and conduct further R&D. The prototpye farm will be able to produce 350kg of produce each month with up to 25 different varieties. 

Stage 3 - The launch of the affordable Farm Nation farm to local farmers. After identifying suitable farmers, we will proceed with partnering up with them to have them operate their own Farm Nation container farm with support from us. 

 

Funding Needed

The amount of funding for our prototype stage that we are aiming to raise is RM 10,000. With this amount of funding, we will be able to develop a smart farming infrastructure that is sufficient enough to produce high-quality and nutritious vegetables to be distributed in attractive subscription packages. The revenue from the sales will be used to further develop the technology to maximize productivity within a limited amount of space.  This includes climate control, IoT application and remote monitoring, grow lights, watering systems, grow supplies and marketing. The prototype farm will target to produce 350kg/month of vegetables.

Once the prototype stage is successful, our next goal is to raise a total of RM700k to obtain a fully autonomous smart farming system in which we would be able to continue developing our R&D in improving our farms. We will be able to achieve 1 tonne of produce a month and be able to grow 300 varieties of vegetables.

Rewards

We would like to thank you for your support! The rewards are as shown. The discount coupons will be valid when we start operations and will contact you to inform of the availability of use. The vegetable boxes will be given when we start operations and will contact you when they are available. The box will contain 2~4 lettuce mixes and 4~6 small vegetables (arugula, kale, basil, etc.). The farm tour will be conducted a month after the farm is operational and will be a 4 hour session with the team where we will show how we plant new seeds at the nursery section, how we harvest, the mechanism of the AI and IoT applications of the farm, how we package our produce and other farm day-to-day operations. The vertical hydroponic container course will be a session with our team conducted a month after the farm is operational where you will be given 10 plant sites and you have the choice to plant your choice of over 25 different varieties of vegetables which will be delivered to you once they have grown. The course will be 4 hours and also includes harvesting our produce and package your own vegetable box to bring home, how to use our farm IoT app to monitor our crops, how to control our climate control systems and much more! 

Impact

Our immediate impact would be towards the raise in awareness of hydroponic produce and the benefits of farm to fork produce in our surrounding communities. Our team will also be impacting the state of farming technology in the country by making AI and IoT based farming more accessible to everyone. The impact to local farmers will be the most apparent as our farms will give them the versatility to grow their produce in the most optimum conditions regardless of weather and market shifts. We also will be contributing to overcoming the nation's food security and food loss issues by partnerning up with respective government bodies and NGO's. Currently we already have a partnership with UPM where in the long run, we will be open to having interns and fresh graduate hires to help with farm operations and R&D.


Risk & Challenges

The variables that would dictate the success of the project would be the quality of our supplies and the acceptance of local farmers to our technology. Our supplies include the seeds, the hydroponic solutions and the grow equipments. These factors would require time and cost for us to validate. To attract the farmers, a relationship with them will need to be built in order to gain attraction and to better communicate with them of the importance of new smart farming technology. We will be able to overcome this by partnering with our university, UPM, to help existing farmers that already are partners with UPM. 

Other Ways to Support Us

Follow us through our journey by following our instagram @farmnation.my and fb page @farmnation.my . We will share a lot more on our social media platforms so do check us out and spread the word to family and friends. Tag and get connected with us even on our LinkedIn! Farm Nation is here to help out everyone get the freshest and most nutritious greens on your plate. Help Farm Nation to help the Earth go greener~

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