Three Malaysian organisations including the Sarawak Forest Corporation, Sunway University, and the University of Technology Sarawak have entered into a public-private collaboration with two of Japan’s leading technology companies, Aerosense Inc. and Funlead Corp to improve the mangrove forests in Sarawak through the adoption of drone technology and artificial intelligence.
The research project, funded by both Sunway University and the Asia- Pacific Telecommunity (APT) is necessary to procure evidence-based, systematic mangrove conservatory strategies to promote long-term ecological and economical resilience in Sarawak’s mangrove forests.
Malaysia is one of the largest mangrove-holding countries in the World, with Sarawak having the second-largest coverage in Malaysia. The mangrove forests have been playing an important ecological, social, and economic role in the ecosystem. However, these covers have inevitably been subjected to threats such as climate change, various land use, and human activities.
Through the project, the team will be able to obtain real-time plant health monitoring, as well as proactively protect the mangrove forest through artisanal fisheries surveillance. This research project is led by Prof. Yap Kian Meng, who is also the Head of Sunway University’s Research Centre for Human-Machine Collaboration (HUMAC), School of Engineering and Technology.
“As one of the collaborative partners, Sarawak Forest Corporation is always in pursuit of useful and innovative technology that helps save the environment. This collaboration between all the parties will help conservation as the focused work targets our concerns of healthy forests and degraded lands that we need to rewild,” said Zolkipli Mohamad Aton, Chief Executive Officer of Sarawak Forest Corporation.
Meanwhile, Prof. Mahendhiran Nair, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Research Engagement and Impact of Sunway University said, “This initiative is aligned with the vision for Malaysia as outlined in the 12 Malaysian Plan to protect the country’s natural habitat and create a better return of value from the biodiversity and conservation efforts. Protecting the mangrove using advanced technology will have several economic, social, and environmental spill overs to Malaysia and the regional economies.”
The two Japanese companies – Aerosence Inc., provides drone technology and cloud SaaS (Software as a Service) solution, while Funlead Corp., an ICT company provides support for data acquisition and image analysis with artificial intelligence technologies. Aerosense and Funlead are both the alumni of 2021 JETRO-Sunway Innovation Labs (iLabs) Digital Transformation Accelerator that aims to support the Japanese companies to better position themselves and expand across Malaysia, using the Sunway ecosystem as a launchpad and testbed.
According to Satoru Shimada, Board of Directors of Aerosense, the research will be further complemented with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) technology that will cover up to about 300ha per flight for drone photogrammetry. This will enhance the mangrove monitoring efficiency. Meanwhile, Koichi Kishi, the Senior Manager of Funlead Corp. envisages the deployment of a compact, light-weight hyperspectral sensor in the next phase to improve analytical abilities. This enhancement is supposed to enable the grasping distribution of Mangrove species precisely.
“JETRO works together with the Japanese government to promote open innovation by supporting the collaboration between ASEAN organizations and Japanese companies. Environmental conservation is one of the synergistic areas between Malaysia and Japan and this collaboration uses the advantages and ability of both countries in building meaningful solutions around the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; an excellent example of Malaysia-Japan business collaborations in keeping the environmental ecosystem”, commented Yuhei Enguchi, the Digital Transformation Director of JETRO Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.