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Chemical giant NOROO opens new era of smart farming

South Korean paint and resin maker extends smart farming and advanced seed development systems to China, Kazakhstan and Singapore

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 October, 2017, 10:36am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 October, 2017, 6:25pm

South Korea’s long-time leading paint and resin manufacturer has a new passion – futuristic agriculture. Starting in Central Asia and China, NOROO’s diversification aims to solve the challenging scenario in global agriculture – world population growth, lack of water resource, global warming, heavy use of fertilisers and pesticides, ageing farmer profile, environmental waste, and food safety and security.

This commitment led NOROO to establish two subsidiaries in 2015 – NOROO KIBAN for smart farming and THE KIBAN for advanced seed development. While NOROO KIBAN allows fully indoor, year-round farming using only a nutrient solution and culture medium, THE KIBAN develops seeds that are far superior than those from other sources.

Futuristic agriculture combines six fields of expertise comprising biology, chemistry, information and communications technology, robotics, nanotechnology and culture. NOROO develops networking of related global companies as a project creator to seek win-win strategies. While drones collect data such as topography and plant health, NOROO’s environmental factor control system KroFarm processes the data and allows farmers to control humidity, nutrients and ventilation of single or multiple greenhouses at the touch of a button. The software, which was developed in-house by NOROO for smartphones or computers, uses internet of everything technology.

“The more we get into this business, the more we find overlapping areas or synergies with our paint and chemical business,” says chairman Han Young-jae.

Shading coatings applied on the greenhouse glass roofing, for instance, can manipulate sun rays to enable farmers to produce year long, while protecting workers from the excessive summer heat.

It is highly likely that Hong Kong will be the very first one for this particular project, then Singapore
Han Young-jae, chairman, NOROO

Unlike traditional vinyl covers, the coating is also biodegradable. Moreover, NOROO KIBAN provides total solutions covering the whole value chain under one roof, from greenhouse fabrication through to harvesting and export. This brings significant cost savings to clients.

THE KIBAN, on the other hand, has been developing seeds of 17 vegetables comprising more than 100 varieties. The patented concoction makes seeds that sprout faster and survive better against harmful insects, resulting in higher yields and farmer incomes.

NOROO KIBAN will also offer vertical greenhouses for congested areas. “It is highly likely that Hong Kong will be the very first one for this particular project, then Singapore,” Han says. “Our smart greenhouse systems, however, require a sizeable initial investment outlay and, as such, government subsidies and support are critical.”

The government is bound to reap the benefits of smart farming considering the early successes of NOROO’s projects. Using only hot springs as energy source and KroFarm, the group runs a tomato greenhouse on 4 hectares of land in the town of Zharkent in Kazakhstan. NOROO is also managing similar greenhouses in Xiaotangshan in northern Beijing and Tianjin, a major port city in northeastern China. NOROO will initially cultivate tomatoes only for the Beijing and Tianjin markets, but will eventually export as production volume increases.

“These model projects will showcase our capabilities, while presenting to the world the complete business cycle from cultivation all the way down to retail,” Han says. “We would like to show the market that, yes, the whole cycle can run successfully.”

NOROO similarly plans to set up a greenhouse belt in major cities along the line of the One Belt, One Road strategy. To start with, the group is collaborating with the governments of Jilin city and Singapore in putting up smart farms in Jilin and eventually exporting from there.

“Agriculture is everybody’s challenge for the benefit of the society,” Han says. “We can all work together and share the benefits through an open collaborative system comprising networked companies and government organisations.” ,