How did you first become interested in agriculture?

I am a veterinarian by profession, but of course agro-technology covers livestock as well as crops. As a child, I was always interested in growing things, mainly small bonsai trees. I learned alot since joining this institution and I had grown to love agriculture.

What does the agriculture course in Brunei cover and what career opportunities are then available to students?

We have a number of courses available, where students now study for the new National Technical Education Certificate (NTec), which takes 1 year, or Higher certificate (HNTec) for 2 years . We cover crop production, which is mostly growing vegetables, fruit trees and rice paddy, plus horticulture science which looks at nurseries and landscaping. There is also livestock production, veterinary science and aquaculture (fisheries). Our courses are 70% practical and 30% theory, so more time is spent getting experience and preparing for employment. It is all about our students to meet the requirements of industry, so they are ready for work, which is different from the past where courses had too much theory and not enough practice. Dependant on the level of study, students can then work as farm, livestock, fish, food industries or laboratory assistants, up to technicians, supervisors, inspectors or management in these industries. We also support entrepreneurship, giving students the opportunity to setup their own real companies and apply their knowledge in real world.

Being progressive means always looking forward. We should always advance and try to be ahead of others.

What are the main challenges in getting prospective students interested in agriculture?

The main thing is people think agriculture means tough work and out in the hot sun all day! In Brunei, parents want their children to get a better paid office job, not be a farmer, where wages have in the past been very low. It’s about changing the mind-set.
By modernising and growing more high value crops, agriculture can make a good living. So it’s attracting students in the first place that is the challenge – once here, they see the benefits. Fortunately, we now see a younger generation following their older brothers and sisters onto our courses.

Can you tell us about any innovative agricultural projects you have done?

Since January this year, we have been looking at sustainable agriculture, working towards organic farming. Now everyone is learning that adding too many chemicals are damaging to the soil, so we are looking at using organic fertilisers for example. We also have hydroponics, using water to grow without soil, plus we have our first organic paddy field where we are trying to grow without using any chemicals, making fertiliser from our bamboo plantation and also our own compost.
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