Food fuels the economy as it does the body, as evidenced by Malaysia Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI), which helps the country and other nations hone technical services and entrepreneurship development in food, agriculture and related fields.
The institute has spearheaded the successful generation of new crop varieties and animal breeds for more than 40 years. It has also developed the best management practices in the industry using state-of-the-art horticultural, livestock and food-processing techniques, including precision farming and soil, water and genetic resources optimisation.
"Food is not just nourishment, but a means to a healthy future for any nation. It has to be high-quality, nutritious and sustainable," says
Dr Sharif Haron, MARDI director general. "The world is changing, and so should the ways we view, use and cultivate food. As Malaysia aspires to become a high-income and high-productivity economy by 2020, food security, safety and quality will be key amid global climate change, population growth and diminishing natural resources."
MARDI works with numerous local and international organisations, such as the International Rice Research Institute and AVRDC - The World Vegetable Center - to do good and relevant research. It partners with private companies, including chemicals specialist BASF and food and beverage giant Nestle, whose latest collaboration with MARDI focuses on bio-fortified,
vitamin A-rich sweet potatoes suitable for baby food and other products. MARDI is also working with the Shandong Academy of Sciences on a microbial fertiliser that can potentially enrich organic fertilisers in China.
Through its subsidiary Marditech, MARDI also offers consultancy services that help developing regions such as Afghanistan, Syria and Nigeria create sustainable food policies and programmes. The Centre for Molecular Development and Validation, an associated national centre of excellence, is another avenue for MARDI to provide services towards developing better animal- and plant-breeding programmes.
"Beyond sharing our know-how, we are keen on developing next-generation products such as functional/composite food and hybrid crops," Sharif says. "In the next five years, we envision delving into nanotechnology, mechanisation and early-warning pest control systems, sharing expertise with Asia-Pacific and globally."
MARDI is slated to launch a high-clearance tractor with an in-house developed gear that can be used in fields without damaging the crops. Another project uses remote-controlled aerial vehicles in studying vast areas for various purposes such as fertility surveillance.
"We will continue promoting the culture of innovation while helping ensure food security, increased agricultural productivity and efficiency, competitiveness and waste reduction through research and technology development," Sharif says. "We hope to attract more young talent who can leverage information and communication technologies in further developing value-added applications."
Malaysia Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI)