SEARCA Regional Professorial Chair Grant
The Future of Farming with UPM's Dr. Siti Khairunniza Bejo
Assoc. Prof. Ts. Dr. Siti Khairunniza Bejo is an Associate Professor at the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM). She is also the Head of the Smart Farming Technology Research Center (SFTRC) and a research associate at the Institute of Plantation Studies of UPM. Dr. Bejo's outstanding accomplishments related to the applications of Imaging Technology and Remote Sensing to agriculture afforded her the SEARCA Regional Professorial Chair Grant. Her research specialization includes imaging technology, precision agriculture, remote sensing, artificial intelligence, and the internet of things. Demonstrating how digitalization can make the agricultural sector more resilient to future challenges, she has inspired many individuals through her public lectures, publications in reputable journals, and engagements with the agricultural community.
As a highly respected academician, Dr. Bejo believes that education is key to success. She wanted to help the next generation develop their future career and achieve their highest potential. Teaching is a good platform for this goal because she can teach using her own experiences as a student. She also encourages everyone to meet challenges, and develop soft skills, as these skills are essential for personal and professional success.
Dr. Bejo finished her Bachelor of Computer System and Communications Engineering degree at UPM in 2001. Her career as a lecturer began the next year when she was appointed first as a Tutor at the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering. Dr. Bejo's role was to modernize agriculture through ICT and she taught Tutorials for Mathematics Engineering. A year later, in 2003, she was sponsored by the Malaysian Government and UPM to pursue her PhD in Image Processing at the University of Surrey, United Kingdom under the supervision of the late Prof. Maria Petrou. Dr. Bejo's supervisor inspired her to become a good and highly reputable academician, and after three years, she completed her PhD and was subsequently appointed as a Lecturer in 2006. She initially taught Computer Programming for first-year students but as she became a senior lecturer, she taught final-year students courses such as Remote Sensing Applications, Precision Agriculture, and Artificial Intelligence.
Throughout her career from being a Tutor until her present post as an Associate Professor, Dr. Bejo learned the importance of collaboration, patience, understanding, compassion, and flexibility. She is also committed to lifelong learning and expanding her knowledge base. This commitment led to Dr. Bejo's significant contributions to her field, particularly in the discipline and profession of agricultural engineering. She was the Head of the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, UPM from 2016-2020. She is also active in curriculum development and program accreditation process under the recognition of the Washington Accord, USA, and the Engineering Accreditation Council (EAC), Malaysia. Furthermore, Dr. Bejo provided her expertise to the Bachelor of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering and Bachelor of Smart Farming Technology programs at UPM. She was the Chairperson of the 5th International Conference on Agricultural and Food Engineering (CAFEi2020) which saw 485 paper presentations from 13 different countries, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Vietnam, Japan, Iran, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The said conference surpassed the record for the most number of participants in the conference's history.
As a prolific researcher, Dr. Bejo has received grants totaling over USD 1.4 million and has published over 145 scientific papers, including 85 in journals, 53 in conference proceedings, four chapters in a book, and five in professional magazines. Her work also resulted to nine copyrights, one patent granted and one pending patent. Through her position, Dr. Bejo has played a major role in digitizing agriculture in Malaysia to make it more effective, efficient, and sustainable. She actively offers solutions to industries when they consult her for assistance, and her research has been recognized with five international awards. She uses various types of technologies to be adopted in agriculture including imaging technology, drone, the internet of things, and artificial intelligence. For instance, Dr. Bejo used hyperspectral imaging and a machine learning technique to construct a model suitable for the detection of G. boninense infection. The research demonstrated that healthy and infected seedlings can be identified with 95%-100% accuracy. The findings of this research provided a significant impact on the oil palm industry since it could help prevent the spread of the disease by successfully detecting the asymptomatic infection which cannot be done by manual inspection through human vision. It motivated Dr. Bejo to further investigate the potential of imaging technology for disease detection at the nursery and plantation level by utilizing different platforms of image acquisition, integrating soil information through an IoT system, and expanding this approach to other different crops.
Dr. Bejo wants the public to see that agriculture nowadays is no longer dirty, dangerous, and difficult. By using modern agricultural tools, agriculture has become more attractive, exciting, and innovative. Hopefully, it will inspire the next generation to work in this crucial area. As part of the grant, Dr. Bejo shared her research through a public lecture on Plant Disease Sensing Using Hyperspectral Imaging and Machine Learning Techniques: A Case Study in Ganoderma boninense Infection. The event was hosted by the SMART Farming Technology Research Center, UPM, on 27 February 2023, 10:00-11:00 AM (GMT+8:00), via Zoom and FB Live.