When we talk about Kundasang, we will definitely imagine the cool and comfortable air in addition to the green vegetable fields. In Sabah, Kundasang is a major center for the cultivation and production of upland vegetables. The fertile land and beautiful scenery is enough to make Kundasang as one of the main tourist attractions of the State in Bawah Bayu.
The history of vegetable cultivation in Kundasang and Sabah in general has long been recorded. During that period, various problems arose. High demand has led many farmers to use chemical pesticides and fertilizers to increase and accelerate productivity and production. Once from 1993 to 1996, crops from Sabah were banned from being brought into Sarawak and Brunei due to the high levels of pesticides. In 2015, there was an earthquake that damaged most of the farms and irrigation systems in Kundasang. Among the victims involved is the family of Azizul Julirin.
“Soil that has been used for decades no longer contains the nutrients that plants need. So farmers use chemical fertilizers to encourage the growth of their crops, “explained Azizul. However, fertilizer use needs to be controlled. For consumers, vegetables need to be washed well before eating so that the harmful effects of fertilizers can be removed. According to him, traditional agricultural activities on the hillsides are prone to landslides. “Upland areas are no longer strong and at risk of collapsing at any time. The Ranau earthquake in 2015 has caused the water source area for watering vegetables to be severely damaged due to landslides, ”he added. This also affected the production of vegetables for almost two months in Kundasang.
Looking at this problem, Azizul who is also a graduate of Universiti Malaysia Sabah in Aquaculture Science has set ambitions to produce a safer, eco-friendly farm. “I learned about the aquafonic system that is widely used abroad. I am confident that this system can be applied in Kundasang as a better alternative, “he explained, who is experienced in industrial training in Japan. This aquonic cropping system does not require crop areas in areas prone to hazards such as on hillsides. “It can be applied at any suitable site and Kundasang has many interesting areas with the right temperature,” said Azizul.
Using the skills and knowledge he learned, he founded ‘Kundasang Aquafarm’. Kundasang Aquafarm is the only farm in Sabah that applies aquaponic green technology with the integration of aquaculture and hydroponic techniques. “This aquaponic farm can save up to 90% water consumption for sprinklers, there is no need for fertilization and use of chemical pesticides and is able to optimize the use of small space to produce great productivity,” explained Azizul. Using this system, fish farming also needs to be cultivated. This is because fish manure is a natural fertilizer to supply nutrients to plants.
For Azizul, his dream is to build a complete and large-scale aquafonic farm. For that, Azizul has participated in various competitions to get aid grants. Among the assistance he received was through the Inclusive Innovation Challenge implemented by Yayasan Inovasi Malaysia (YIM). His desire to be a pioneer in the technique of aquafonic crops succeeded in attracting YIM’s attention. Project coordinator from YIM, Mohd. Hanif Bin Norzari said, the efforts carried out by Azizul are not only environmentally friendly, but also offer more economical planting techniques. “Save not only from the aspect of farm management, but it is this aqufonic farm can be built anywhere and does not need a specific area that can increase the cost of land ownership,” said Hanif.
With the help of YIM along with various other grant assistance, Azizul managed to build a rain shelter. “The house measuring 40” x 60 “will contain crops and aquafonic system that allows the productivity process to take place without weather disturbances,” explained Azizul. With the construction of this rain shelter, crop productivity can be increased.
According to Azizul, Kundasang Aquafarm has three main business products, namely vegetable and livestock products, training and consulting services, as well as ticket sales as agro-tourism activities. “Through training and consulting services, we share aquonical cultivation methods to interested farmers. I have high hopes that this method will be extended to the whole of Sabah, ”said Azizul. From the agro-tourism aspect, this farm is the main attraction because of its uniqueness. “If we usually see plants on the ground, but Kundasang Aquafarm gives a new experience to visitors. YIM also helped promote Kundasang Aquafarms and services provided by them. As one of the government agencies, YIM is always involved in various types of programs, activities and exhibitions. This opportunity is given to innovators to promote their innovation products to the public.