The Halal Science Centre Chulalongkorn University has launched a new initiative with the aim of supporting farmers across the North of Thailand through the use of smart farm technology. Focusing on sustainability, farmers will be trained and assisted so that they can add value to their products, especially farmers working in the herbal industry, as well as reach the international Halal markets’ standards. These products will be promoted within Thailand as well as internationally by the the institute.
Through the participation of experts in a variety of fields, training courses are offered on a number of relevant topics to farmers across the Upper Northern Region including Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampang and Mae Hong Son Provinces. With participation from Maejo University, Chiang Mai University, Mae Fah Luang University and Phayao University, training courses will up skill farmers across the North in innovation and technical advances.
On the 19th July 2023 Chiang Mai media were invited to visit Sun Space Farm in Chiang Mai city to learn about the project and see for themselves how smart farm technology can be applied and create added value to current farming practices. Founding Director of the centre, Assoc. Prof. Winai Dahlan and Deputy Director at the Chiang Mai Office, Asst. Prof. Dr. Parador Sureepong both gave an overview of the project and took the group on a tour of Sun Space Farm, one of five smart farms which are fully equipped with the project’s integrated smart farming greenhouse systems. Through innovation and advances in technology, herbs grown in these green houses face minimum risks. Through smart control systems, problems can be readily solved and through the implementation of the management system, farmers can expect optimum quality yield. This Sun Space Farm is a prototype which can then be duplicated across the north to any group of farmers interested so that their farms can be run efficiently, safely and at Halal standards.
Smart farm systems allow farmers to monitor and control temperature, moisture and nutrients through the use of the Internet of Things, with information gathered by sensors and a control system within each green house. Information is sent directly to the server which is then accessed by the farmer, reducing the cost of production and producing optimal yield. This system is also aimed at reducing labour and time on the part of the farmers.
At Sun Space Farm, a few featured technologies were highlighted. Firstly, a training unit featuring the hydroponic and controller systems using solar cell technology for energy which highlighted the use of the Internet of Things to control and manage the farm. Next, the software control system was divided into the MetaFarm Platform, essentially the easy to use dashboard, and the H Farm Bot system, a line bot to connect the MetaFarm Platform through a systems of alerts or preprogrammed actions. A solar powered Smart Distillator was a farm highlight and can be used to create herbal distillates, or hydrosols and essential oils. Through the use of steam distillation controlled by the technology, herbal products can be produced at a consistent quality, with less waste, and at higher standards. A smart dehydrator, similarly powered by solar power, allowed herbs to be dried rapidly and at high quality.
There are currently five training centres across the north; at Sun Space Farm and Ellie Organic Farm in Chiang Mai, at Arm Farm in Lamphun, Stem Farm in Lampang and JJ Farm in Mae Hong Son provinces.
To date, the institute and its participating farmers have produced some products which were showcased during the media visit;
· Packets of dehydrated anchan flowers were flavoured with tom yum and barbeque flavours, retaining their high levels of anthocyanin flavonoids which are very high in nutrients.
· Hydrosol drinking water made with up to seven types of plants which can be used to drink or in food.
· Plant colours for cosmetics such as peach, anchan, mango leaves, indigo, sappan wood or betel colour pigments which can be used by the skin care or makeup industries. Plant probiotics to add value to products from rice to lychee so that they can be used in both the skin care and cosmetics industries.
· Nail serum made from jasmine rice, sesame oil and camellia seed oil proven to be excellent for nail strengthening and care.
· Quranic energy bar packed with nutrients and made from ingredients mentioned in the Quran including dates, grapes, black cumin seeds, bananas, honey, cereal and nuts.
· Butternut squash flour pasta filled with nutrients which are good for eye health, helps reduce risk from cancer and is good for blood pressure.
· Seven day tea features seven colours of tea — ginger tea, lemongrass tea, English breakfast, jasmine tea, peppermint tea, oolong tea and Darjeeling tea.
· Plant food colours included blue from the anchan flower, yellow from pumpkins, red from beetroots and green from pandan. Using the encapsulation technique in the smart farm’s spray dryer, the colour is not only vibrant but the pigments retain the plants’ nutrients.
Any farmers or members of the public who have further interest in the Halal Science Institute Chulalongkorn University (Chiang Mai)’s smart farm initiative, please contact: https://sites.google.com/view/halal-smart-farm/home?authuser=0 https://www.facebook.com/HSC.CU.CM?mibextid=ZbWKwL https://www.facebook.com/HalalSmartFarm?mibextid=LQQJ4d