Research & Development

Progress Through Research & Development

Growth through innovation.

Supporting our plantation businesses as well as renewable energy ventures, we invest in Research and Development (“R&D”), which is carried out at the Kulim Agrotech Centre (“KAC”) located in Kota Tinggi, Johor. As a centre of excellence, KAC hosts five operating units, namely Tissue Culture, Genomic Laboratory, Plant Breeding Laboratory, Ulu Tiram Central Laboratory (“UTCL”) and R&D Management Office (Agronomy Advisory and Plant Breeding Office). Research in agronomy and plant breeding is carried out at the R&D Management Office, which also has a microbiology lab. In addition, we collaborate with MPOB and the Malaysian Nuclear Agency on various agricultural-related areas of research.

AGRONOMY UNIT

Overview

The Agronomy Unit contributes to operations by providing technical expertise on enhancing productivity. With over 40 years of experience, it enables Kulim to gauge the performance of different planting areas more effectively, providing analysis and recommendations on best practices, identifying sites for new agronomy trials and recommending measures to overcome pest and disease outbreaks. Outcomes of science-based research are shared with estates across the Group to enhance field performance, benchmarked against high performers.
Read More
Key Initiatives Achievements
Sustaining yield Sustained FFB production at over a million tonnes in 2021, for the fifth consecutive year.
Though there was an overall decline in yield in 2021, some fields continued to perform well, yielding between 25-30mt/ha with a few even recording more than 30mt/ha.
Despite the serious labour shortage as a result of the pandemic, the Group’s yield stood at 20.11 mt/ha, among the highest in the industry.
Microbiology laboratory The laboratory provides domestic water analysis from estates for water quality control.  In 2021, a total of 583 samples were analysed.
Enhance services for better yield In 2020, the Microbiology Lab had embarked on in-house production of a beneficial microbe, mycorrhiza, which has been proven to be as effective as commercial products in improving plant immunity against diseases. In 2021, another two production houses with the capacity of 8mt each were constructed. Total production for the year was 18.9mt.
Remote sensing The remote sensing unit continued to perform accurate digital mapping using drones. As at end 2021, the digital mapping had covered 21,400 ha
Accurate aerial digital mapping provides a base for precision agriculture implementation.
A quick overview on land usage, canopy colour/size and overall estate features can be performed via drone mapping.
Use of AI technology in palm counting helped to improve palm census efficiency and accuracy.
Establishment of SOPs for new crops The process of establishing SOPs for new crops - durian, coconut and vegetables - has been initiated in line with planting progress.
Establishment of SOPs for new crops The process of establishing SOPs for new crops - durian, coconut and vegetables - has been initiated in line with planting progress.
Agronomic visits and reporting Despite the MCO, 37 official agronomy reports were produced to ensure estates apply Good Agricultural Practices (“GAP”) on top of ad-hoc special and casual visits.
The Agronomic team also performed feasibility studies on other properties.
Challenges Mitigating Actions
Increase in agriculture input costs such as fertilisers and chemicals Participate in symposiums, seminars and training to acquire industry knowledge to be able to recommend the most economic and practical choices to Kulim
Lower productivity due to labour shortage Establish contact and collaborate with government research agencies such as MPOB, Mardi and Nuclear Malaysia, in addition to research collaboration with universities to enhance productivity
Emergence of low-quality generic chemicals in the market Progressively carry out research and screening test of new products
Guiding plantations on best agricultural practices.
Recommend the best fertilisers for maximum yield.
Establish and update planting procedures and protocols based on research & regulations
Ensure that all agricultural inputs purchased are of good quality, safe and suitable for the specific crops

PLANT BREEDING LABORATORY

Overview

The primary objective of our Plant Breeding Laboratory is to produce elite planting materials to enhance our palm oil yield.
Read More
Key Initiatives Achievements
To select and supply elite ortets A total of 37 SIRIM-certified seed-derived ortets of different genetic backgrounds were selected and provided for Kulim TopPlant in order to produce elite commercial clonal planting materials.
To select and certify new mother palms Another 32 OPGL dura palms were selected from REM seed garden making a total of 294 certified mother palms available for DxP seed production. Historically, this OPGL is the best dura mother palm collection in Malaysia based on results of the Third Round of Malaysian DxP Evaluation conducted by MPOB (1996 – 2005).
To enhance crop security Coconut Seed Garden for Matag hybrid seeds production was established at Tereh Utara Estate in 2019 while attentive field maintenance of immature parental palms (Malayan Yellow Dwarf and Tagnanan) was successfully carried out in 2021. Field data collection will commence from January 2022.
Coconut Genebank aimed for specific traits, diversification and future commercial utilisation involving various local and international commercial cultivars such as Aromatic Pandan, Tacunan, Cameroon and Malayan Dwarfs mother palms (Yellow, Red, Green, Brown) besides Tagnanan and Nias green (father palms). The coconut palms, planted around KAC are being monitored.
Challenges Mitigating Actions
Oil palm breeding is very time-consuming, taking 10 years to complete one selection cycle Developing pure inbred duras lines in elite dura populations through single seed descend (SSD) programme to reduce mother palm’s selection cycle from 10 years to five years.  
To ensure seeds supplied to Kulim are legitimate/pure DxP.   Collaborating with MPOB to ensure the seeds supplied are legitimate/pure DxP through the use of Shell-Kits test  
To provide adequate number of best ortets for tissue culture production   Establishing elite DxP trial plot annually to ensure adequate candidates for annual ortet selection and supply
To supply DxP seeds and tenera ramets for Kulim’s annual replanting programme.
To create new improved planting material through Plant Breeding R&D.
Outside sales of DxP seeds

ULU TIRAM CENTRAL LABORATORY (“UTCL”)

Overview

UTCL conducts various chemical and physical tests, focusing mainly on agricultural samples such as soil, fertilisers, foliar, effluent, water, palm oil and latex. UTCL has been ISO/IEC 17025 accredited since 2005. Equipped with the latest instruments to provide fast and reliable laboratory services such as inductive coupled plasma-optical emissions spectrophotometer (“ICP-OES”), Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer (“AAS”), UV-Vis Spectrophotometer and nitrogen auto analysers, it seeks to become the preferred laboratory for the wider agricultural community.
Read More
Key Initiatives Achievements
Complete analyses within stipulated target period Conducted a total of 96,120 analyses, of which 99.65% were completed on time as compared to 93.23% in 2020.
Despite MCO, a total of 15,358 samples were analysed in 2021.
Ensure renewal of ISO/IEC accreditation Successfully migrated from ISO/IEC 17025:2005 to ISO/IEC 17025:2017.
Received IKM Laboratory Excellent Award from Institut Kimia Malaysia (“IKM”).
Ensure chemists are IKM registered Another chemist obtained her IKM license, thus the lab currently has two IKM-registered chemists.
Provide competent person for Certified Environmental Professional in Scheduled Waste Management (“CePSWaM”) One chemist completed the course on CePSWaM, as per DoE requirements for the KAC Complex.
Challenge Mitigating Action
Expensive equipment and maintenance costs Attract more clients – to help allay costs – by providing fast results
Competition on price and service from other laboratories To maintain recognition such as ISO/IEC17025) accreditation and certificates from professional bodies and national agencies (IKM Laboratory Excellent Award).
Maintaining current clients while attracting new customers   Maintain competitive pricing by increasing the number of samples received.
Participate in standard testing organisations (proficiency testing) in order to maintain accuracy in test results.
Keep customer satisfaction level high.
Changing market demand Expand laboratory scope of services by aligning with market demand.
To provide laboratory analytical services on plants, soil, fertilisers, effluents and water samples to internal (Kulim group of estates) and external clients.
To produce fast, reliable and accurate results to enable prompt application and quality claim by clients.

TISSUE CULTURE

Overview

Tissue culture is the best way to mass-produce elite planting materials. Research in tissue culture conducted in the laboratory is applied to mass production by Kulim TopPlant. Through progressive research, the objective is to develop clonal oil palm planting materials that will help Kulim to achieve higher OER.
Read More
Key Initiatives Achievements
Produce high-yielding tissue culture ramets Processed 27 SIRIM-certified ortets and produced 133,571 explants.
Produced 13,242 callus and 13,147 embryogenic callus.
Produced 110,780 embryoids.
Produced 68,681 shoots.
Produced 26,640 rooted plantlets.
A total of 73,770 ramets were transplanted in pre- nursery.
A total of 60,000 ramets were sold in 2021.
Introduction of mini chamber in nursery Improved the ramet survival rate at hardening stage from 67% to 90%
Challenge Mitigating Action
• Individual ortet responds differently towards treatment or hormones. Thus, the treatment cannot be fixed and KTPSB has to find the best formulation for different ortet.• Risk of ramet loss is very high due to contamination. • Study new methods such as using bioreactors and liquid culture. • Improve protocol, discipline and laboratory design based on current requirements • Engage prominent consultants for advice and technology transfer • Improve current tissue culture protocol for higher amenability (to produce more ramets)
Produce high quality clonal planting material for Kulim group of estates
Deliver materials to selected estates in a timely fashion.
Assist estates in taking care of the material in the early nursery stages to minimise losses.

Outlook

Kulim expects to produce 1,197,253 mt of CPO in 2022, 4.3% higher than our estimated production in 2021 as production rebounds taking into consideration of low cropping in 2021 hence the spill-over of crops from 2021; and normalcy in the recruitment of foreign workers.
Although fertilisers are projected to cost 15& to 20% more in 2022, high CPO prices are likely to compensate for this. The main challenge will be to ensure the fertilisers are delivered on time
Meanwhile, our operations in Indonesia are working towards ISPO and RSPO certification, and target to achieve these by 2023.
agriculture droneAgriculture future
Kulim (Malaysia) Berhad
Level 11, Menara Komtar, Johor Bahru City Centre, 80000 Johor Bahru, Johor Darul Takzim, Malaysia
For 80 years, we revolutionised the future of agribusiness, thus, strengthening our position as one of the key players in Malaysia's agricultural sector.
Copyright © 2022 Kulim Malaysia Berhad
arrow-right