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Exploring a win-win model with Central Asia
Published on: Wednesday, June 28, 2017

By Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau
ON THIS first day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri, many Malaysians would be back in their hometowns celebrating this festival and catching up on lost time with friends and family.

There would also be many Malaysians on duty, such as those in the emergency services and police patrolling our neighbourhoods. This week starting today I will be leading the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) delegation to EXPO 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan. Themed “Energy of the Future”, this exhibition looks to bring over five million visitors from around the globe together to call for more responsible energy consumption.

Our delegation comprises representatives from MOSTI, Bioeconomy Corporation, SIRIM Berhad, Yayasan Inovasi Malaysia and the private sector. We want to explore collaboration and investment opportunities with businesses from Central Asia.

We will be presenting Malaysia’s value proposition in the food, bio-chemicals, energy and wellness sectors, besides witnessing three Memorandum of Understanding (MOUs) exchange between Malaysian companies and their international counterparts.

Governments and businesses around the world are increasingly turning to “sustainability” in everything – a sustainable economy, environment, energy and even business models.

As one of the first countries in Asia to spearhead a national bioeconomy initiative, apart from promoting our rich source of renewable biological resources to be converted into energy, we will also share our success stories in employing our very own unique, sustainable business model in bioeconomy. Bioeconomy Corporation for example, developed the Bioeconomy Community Development Programme (BCDP) that enlists suburban farmers to cultivate raw materials for BioNexus companies and project owners under the Bioeconomy Transformation Programme.

Coupled with the MOSTI Social Innovation initiative, which aims to apply a human-centred approach to meet the needs of local communities through innovative technologies, the BCDP had recently concluded its collaboration with several BioNexus companies and local cooperatives.

One BCDP project in Pulau Gasing, Langkawi, was a seaweed aquaculture project to uplift the local coastal community in collaboration with Langkawi Aquaculture Sdn Bhd, an anchor company involved in commercial seaweed farming since 2013.

Twenty members from Persatuan Pengusaha Rumpai Laut Langkawi were trained in the latest techniques to farm, maintain and increase seaweed production by the anchor company. For instance, they used the company’s proprietary technology in farming enclosure, deemed more environmental-friendly than conventional cages.

Through the BCDP model, the company is guaranteed a consistent supply of raw seaweed to be made into Carrageenan, which serves as a thickener in products such as toothpaste, lotions and facial cleansers, and is a dietary alternative to gelatin.

This seaweed farming project can be expanded to other parts of Langkawi to benefit more farmers.

At its fullest potential, it can house 100 cages of seaweed with 700 kilograms each.

Members of the Persatuan can expect an income of more than RM 3,000 a month.

Langkawi might turn into a seaweed production hub in the foreseeable future.

A second BCDP project is oyster mushroom farming in Nilai, Negeri Sembilan, in collaboration with Koperasi Waris Jati Kondok and Bionexus company Frais Fungi Sdn Bhd. They constructed a mushroom cultivation facility and purchased 100,000 mushroom bags that have been injected with mushroom seeds and supplied by University of Malaya with the funding assistance.

Once again the contract farming and buy-back guarantee agreement between the Koperasi and the Frais Fungi will ensure a consistent supply of oyster mushrooms to be processed and marketed by the company, simultaneously generating more jobs and revenue for the community. Ten mushroom houses is reported to be able to generate an income of RM 54,000 a month.

A third example is the planting of Kacip Fatimah by Persatuan Peniaga Kecil Kampung Sagil in Tangkak, Johor, along with Bioalpha East Coast Agro Sdn Bhd. Members of the Persatuan acquired biotechnology skills and knowledge to mass produce Kacip Fatimah, while the company is assured a long-term, continuous supply of high quality Kacip Fatimah to be commercialised in the local herbal industry. Kampung Sagil might just be a unique tourist site due to its role as a burgeoning herbal region and its close proximity to Gunung Ledang.

This win-win BCDP model is about sustaining the income of bio-agropreneurs and the supply of raw materials for the anchor companies. It empowers producers of these raw materials with biotechnological skills and knowledge in farming, and allows them to capture more returns as they bypass middlemen.

Our Bio-Agropreneurs will then be not left out in the increasingly knowledge intensive bioeconomy sector.

With the successful BCDP in place back home, the MOSTI delegation at the Expo is looking forward to attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) from Central Asia, even better if we can explore a similar sustainable business model with the international market.

We are hopeful for a fruitful trip. Lastly, I wish all Malaysians Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Happy Holidays.

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