Malaysia Learns Biotech Agriculture From Australia

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Malaysia Learns Biotech Agriculture From Australia

The Sarawak Biodiversity Center and the Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak satellite campus collaborated under the Memorandum of Understanding as a means of developing new discoveries that hold potential commercial value for how Sarawak can more efficiently use its rich biodiversity. Sarawak is in one of the world’s greatest boons for biodiversity, so the innumerable biological resources in the state are presently being researched in the contexts of technological advancement.

Teachers and students at Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus’s Biotechnology Club banded together and headed to SMK St. Teresa to illuminate others on farming techniques of the future. “Future farming is a revolution in the agriculture sector that can provide food security for the ever-growing human population,” said Ng Sing Muk, research, consultancy and future projects associate director for Swinburne Sarawak.

“It shifts from conventional farming with the use of precise technologies such as biotechnology and information and communication technology to produce high yielding and quality crops,” added Ng, an advisor for the Biotechnology Club. “Malaysia is one of the few countries heavily involved in the agriculture sector, and the future farming agenda is foreseen to be relevant in helping the country generate more income, while using less labour in the fields.”

Swinburne Sarawak received an invitation to be involved in the school’s Science and Mathematics Week, which is when they shared this information on plant tissue culture to demonstrate how parts of plants can be duplicated as a more efficient farming method, which represents a stark change from the traditional farming methods of cutting stems or using seeds to grow the plants.


This biotechnological notion of using plant tissue culture as a means of utilizing living organisms or assorted bioprocesses for the production of organisms useful not just in agriculture but also in medicine. “The students have this topic as part of their biology syllabus, but don’t have the opportunity to do the practical work of culturing plants,” said Susieana Joseph, the instructor in charge of the event.

“We are happy Swinburne’s biotechnology students are willing to share this experience with us, and make it possible for some of our students to do the practical work on plant tissue culture.”


The Borneo Post reported that “The students listened to a talk on biotechnology and plant tissue culture. They were taught the practical aspects of tissue culture which Swinburne’s biotechnology students learned when studying for their biotechnology degree. They were then led through some hands-on activities related to plant tissue culture in the labs. Five groups of students chosen for being best [sic] in hands-on activities were invited to visit Swinburne Sarawak during its Open Day in August. They will have the opportunity to perform a plant tissue culture activity during the visit.”


Ting Lik Fong is a biotechnology lecturer on the Faculty of Engineering, Computing and Science. Ting said, “We look forward to their visit and to expose them to a working laboratory. Hopefully this can trigger their interest in the area of biotechnology, and spearhead this agricultural agenda in the near future.”


When the collaboration first began at the beginning of the year, Professor Helmut Lueckenhausen, Swinburne’s chief executive and pro vice chancellor, said, “Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, one of the newer technology universities in Australia, is pursuing significant research of various kinds. When we opened the campus here, what seemed attractive to the university were opportunities in biotechnology.


“Swinburne Sarawak believes it has the capacity to make a significant contribution to industrial sustainability in Sarawak and elsewhere as it has the research expertise and the technology for endeavors of this kind. This project is also in line with our goal to extend Swinburne Melbourne’s status as a research-intensive university to our Sarawak campus,” said Lueckenhausen.


This collaboration is very timely for the university’s preexisting plans to expand activities into technology and science and bolster its research programs, particularly in tandem with the local industry. The agriculture sector and other industries have been bio-prospecting Sarawak’s biodiversity to learn what valuable applications there may be for the healthcare industry as well, and much depends on how they implement a rather involved and complex research and development program already burgeoning in the country.


This would involve disparate technology, including but not limited to biotechnology that has already been purposed for serving as a catalyst for growth in the domestic economy. The Sarawak Biodiversity Center’s chief executive, Dr. Rita Manurung, said, “Most of our scientists are new and very young—they, therefore, need a lot of training and guidance. We believe this is the perfect opportunity to team up with Swinburne so that our officers will benefit from the training they’ve achieved at the university.


“We work together to achieve what we plan to do at SBC,” she explained. “Prior to this, the [Sarawak Biodiversity Center] has been sending research officers overseas for postgraduate studies. In fact, three officers just came back last year from Adelaide, Australia, and are now working full time at SBC.”


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