The plantations sector has long served as the backbone of the Malaysian economy, with over two thirds of agricultural land comprised of oil palm plantations. But planters are largely still reliant on traditional ways of managing crops - preferring manual book keeping, data entry and monitoring.
The abundance of foreign labour also held back planters from embracing automation.
But with the recent slump in global palm oil prices, digitalisation may very well be planters’ best chance for growth - or survival even.
Managing costs and margins require insight - you can’t manage something if you don’t know how much you spend in specific activities
“As planters, you don’t determine the selling price - you have no control over it,” says LintraMax founder and Managing Director Khor Kheng Khoon.
“The only thing you can control is your input cost. But managing costs and margins require insight - you can’t manage something if you don’t know how much you spend in specific activities.”
This is where digitalisation comes into play.
LintraMax, a plantation management solutions company, has for the past 17-years developed software to help planters - palm oil, rubber and other crops - better manage and modernise their businesses.
Five years ago, the Petaling Jaya-based firm brought its solutions to the cloud through Quarto, a software that helps users streamline and simplify plantation operations through automation of various estate and head office functions such as worker checkroll, staff payroll, procurement, inventory, nursery and vehicle management.
LintraMax's Cloud-Based Solutions Help Modernise Oil Palm Plantations
On the operations side, Quarto provides monitoring tools to help planters analyse yields and forecast trends.
“By automating a lot of the processes, it gives data that managers can build into their operations. Through these insights, they have better visibility. They know where improvements need to made, and that helps reduce cost and improve efficiencies,” says Khor.
Apart from labor and resources saving, we help monitor operations a bit more tightly
Last year, LintraMax rolled out QuartoConnect, an application which runs on mobile devices to help planters digitally record data of activities on the field.
For example, recording of crop production with GPS location tagging, which would improve traceability and enhance crop quality monitoring.
Its crop evacuation log feature, meanwhile, monitors transportation of the harvested crop to the mill, thus helping to improve crop freshness and reduce crop backlogs and losses.
All the information is stored in a cloud-based system, making it easier for managers to access field data at any time. “Clients will see a lot of savings in terms of (reducing wastage) and through improving efficiencies,” says Khor.
“Something that used to take probably three to four days to do can now be completed in half a day.”
QuartoConnect is also integrated with a biometric device to read fingerprints. This allows workers’ attendance to be recorded and verified quickly. “So, apart from labor and resources saving, we help monitor operations a bit more tightly,” he adds.
Cost, Operational Challenges Hinder Digitalisation in Small Plantations
LintraMax currently serves over 30 clients, covering some 700 palm oil estates throughout Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
In Malaysia, it counts Federal Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority Bhd (Felcra) - managing lands of 112,454 smallholders - as one of its biggest clients.
Cost and resource are often the biggest challenge for small planters to set up their own internal IT infrastructure - a problem LintraMax aims to help solve through Quarto, a subscription-based service.
“In Malaysia, we have a lot of smallholders. And quite often, they don’t have the in-house capability to implement this system,” says Khor.
“But it is becoming easier through cloud and mobile technology - people are more familiar, it becomes more accessible.”
“Our message is that, the only way to manage margin is through managing your cost. So, that is a pretty strong value proposition (for LintraMax).”
According to Khor, LintraMax is working on to bring more solutions for planters; the company spends over 25 percent of its annual revenue on research and development.
“We are continuously updating,” says Khor. “We refresh the system with new features about four times a year.”
“I think there’s a lot of optimisation that can be done in the industry itself. So, we have lots of room to grow.”
LintraMax - IoT, Artificial Intelligence in Plantations Becoming More Accessible