BRUNEI-MUARA – Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB) will soon open a Centre for Research on Agrifood Science and Technology (CrAFT), as part of country-wide efforts to support the development of the agriculture sector and the food industry.

The announcement was made by His Majesty the Sultan during the university’s sixth convocation on Saturday held at the International Convention Centre.

In a titah, the monarch said the centre would conduct much-needed research to improve agricultural development in the country through the use of technology, Internet-of-Things (IoT) and “smart farm” management.

In an interview with The Scoop, Vice Chancellor of UTB Professor Dr Hjh Zohrah Hj Sulaiman said the centre will complement the university’s existing Food Science and Technology degree programme, where one of the aims is to employ innovative methods to create food products for domestic and global markets.

The government has been trying to cut reliance on food imports and push the development of the agriculture with some urgency, as the country tries to diversify its oil and gas-based economy.

However, local farmers have been hit by a series of challengeshigh soil acidity; lack of natural sources of irrigation; lack of capital; and stiff competition from neighboring countries.

Addressing the 461 UTB graduates on Saturday, the sultan stressed the importance of research in tertiary education.

“I hope that CrAFT will work with various government agencies, private sector, and higher learning institutions locally and internationally,” he said. “The excellence of a particular university depends on its ability to produce graduates and research that can contribute to economic development and national progress.”

His Majesty urged the university to keep pushing for greater heights, after it broke into the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) ranking this year placing 165 in Asia and 442 in the world.

UTB also recently secured funding from ASEAN IVO, a regional alliance of ICT universities, for a “smart tourism” project which uses computer vision and artificial intelligence to deliver services to tourism industries. They are also spearheading similar projects which integrate smart technology into agriculture and environmental protection.