Md Razalee Ismail (left) and Zuraida Kamaruddin (3rd from right), Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, Malaysia, at the launch of Meraque’s first Autonomous Ground Vehicle tailored for the oil palm sector.
Meraque Services Sdn Bhd, a Malaysian solution company, has unveiled its first autonomous ground vehicle (AGV) for the plantation sector. The AGV has been named RACE, an acronym for Robotic Agro in Complex Environment.
In a statement, Meraque said RACE was developed to reduce reliance on manpower and improve fertiliser spraying consistency in oil palm plantations.
With a high-power computing module in the brain, RACE is able to navigate its way autonomously between the oil palm trees, analyse surroundings for decision-making and routing as well as set boundaries using high-precision location points, it said.
Minister of plantation industries and commodities Zuraida Kamaruddin said, “New innovations such as Meraque’s RACE will help fortify Malaysia’s standing as a leading producer of agro commodity products internationally.
“It is a testament that our home-grown brands are more than capable of producing world-class solutions that have the propensity to solve real world challenges in the agro-industry.”
In 2020, Meraque claimed to have developed its first Malaysian hybrid spraying drone to spot spray fertilisers and pesticides in crops to circumvent diseases in plantations.
Its success sparked the idea for a locally developed AGV explicitly built to fit the needs of the local oil palm plantations, providing a solution to labour shortages, fluctuating yield, and high costs, it said.
RACE comes embedded with a load capacity of 150 litre (equivalent to 150kg) for its small-scale prototype, which is suited for strip spraying, the company said.
In contrast, the full-scale prototype is equipped with over 500 litre of load capacity to support both strip spraying and manuring activities. RACE can be integrated with other AGVs through its swarm technology and can navigate its swarm to complete projects expeditiously, in phases, it said.
Phase one of the project covers the AGV navigation spraying system in a complex environment such as the oil palm plantation to collect data and analyse patterns for AI training, Meraque said.
Phase two will see the configuration of the high payload capacity and manuring activities. The final phase is where the deployment of the swarm happens after integration with the swarm technology, it added.
Meraque chief executive officer Md Razalee Ismail said, “With Meraque’s plantation AGVs that are infused with artificial intelligence, we hope to build a better tomorrow for the agricultural sector helping more plantations in improving efficiencies, preserving yields, coping with labour costs and shortages, mitigating capricious weather, increasing production and maximizing profits, all while ensuring sustainable practices.”
Meraque claimed to hold the largest market share for drone spraying services in Malaysia.
The company said it is looking at training and hiring at least 500 local talents by the end of 2023 to meet the growing demand of the palm oil sector as well as other large agricultural sectors such as durian, rubber, coconut, paddy field, and pineapple.
Earlier last week, Meraque announced its partnership with Malaysia Debt Ventures Bhd (MDV), a subsidiary of the Minister of Finance (Incorporated) to facilitate the growth of Meraque’s operations and expansion in Malaysia and the Asean region.
The key focus is on the agriculture, plantation, infrastructure and telecommunication sector, through MDV’s specialised financing facility, it said.