KUCHING: As one of the richest and oldest biodiversity hotspots in the world, Sarawak could potentially spearhead its development for the global market.

Biodiversity refers to the variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat, a high level of which is usually considered to be important and desirable. It is typically a measure of variation at the genetic, species, and ecosystem level.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said with a developed and commercialised biodiversity, ample land and technology, Sarawak could boost its own economy and knowledge in particular and the country as a whole.

He said the development of the state’s bio-economy in tandem with the Industrial Revolution 4.0, required the incorporation of enabling and converging technologies. These include artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), nanotechnology and biotechnology which are enablers of domain science and across industries such as agriculture, health and energy.

“To make all these a reality, we are acting locally by providing the infrastructure and framework, and globally by setting up the legal framework and scientific channels to collaborate with the rest of the world on unlocking the potential of our biodiversity,” he said.

Manyin (fourth left), Baya (fifth left), Dr Yeo (third left) and other guests take part in a cake-cutting ceremony to mark SBC’s 21st anniversary. Photo: Mohd Alif Noni

Abang Johari’s text of speech was read by Education, Science and Technological Research Minister Datuk Seri Michael Manyin Jawong during the 21st anniversary celebration of Sarawak Biodiversity Centre (SBC) themed ‘SBC Moving Towards Global Prominence’ at Pullman Hotel last Friday night.

He said through SBC, the state would establish its first Bio-Industrial Park in Kota Samarahan aimed at bringing in new investments from across the globe to make bio-goods and bio-related products.

“We are on the right track. Last August, I launched an algae cultivation facility at SBC which was the result of a long-term collaboration between the centre, Mitsubishi Corporation and Chitose Group.

“They have been exploring algae biodiversity and now it is time to commercialise the products,” he said.

He said the state’s extensive natural resources could be converted into libraries comprising extracts from plants, microbes, algae, essential oils, and scents from the rainforests, which was a more convenient and effective way to develop new products.

“Such a value-added library should play a key role in attracting partners from industries and academia to bio-prospect Sarawak’s biodiversity,” he said.

He then mentioned the global wellness economy worth $4.3 trillion in which the largest markets comprised products and services for personal care, beauty, anti-aging, healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss.

“The global flavour and fragrance market is also expected to grow with a change in growing customers’ preference for natural ingredients compared to synthetics.

“When we look at these markets, it is easy to see the direct connection of Sarawak’s rich biodiversity. The extraordinary biological resources that can be exploited and ample opportunities for businesses to thrive in this venture,” he said.

During the dinner, SBC’s 21 Years Journey book was launched. The book is about SBC’s establishment, activities through the years and its new mission to achieve global prominence.

One of the highlights of the celebration was the sealing of a time capsule by Manyin. The time capsule which contains SBC’s collection of significant items that might become extinct, will be kept at the Centre’s premises and could be opened 100 years from now. Also present at the dinner were SBC chairman Tan Sri Datuk Amar Wilson Baya Dandot, SBC chief executive officer Dr Yeo Tiong Chia and Sarawak Trade and Tourism Office Singapore (Statos) chairman, Tan Sri Mohamad Morshidi Abdul Ghani.