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Mahamad Rodzi Abdul Ghani




Mahamad Rodzi Abdul Ghani





Oil palm recycling project pays off for Yeo
Monday December 6, 2004 - HER inquisitive nature and never-up spirit havepropelled Yeo Kim Luang to achieve success in the recycling and oil palmbiomass by-products processing business.

In 1996, Yeo was excited about her invention from oil palm waste, Ecomatafter about four years of research. Unfortunately, the first generation ofEcomat, an oil palm biomass-based mat made of empty fruit bunches used forsoil erosion prevention, was not well received back then.However, that didnot dampen her spirit.

Yeo Kim Luang

Yeo, who is Ecofuture Bhd chief executive officer, continued to work hardto develop a better and finer version of the product.

Two years later, when she attended an exhibition in China, she came upwith the idea of using Ecomat for sandstorm control.

"When I saw a very bad sandstorm in China, it struck me that maybe I coulduse Ecomat to control the sandstorm. So, I when I got back to Malaysia, Istarted doing a rigorous research in our factory in Johor for thatpurpose" Yeo told Starbiz.

In 1999, backed by Datuk Seri Lim Keng Yaik who was then PrimaryIndustries Minister, Yeo approached Chinese government through Beijingforestry authority and submitted a proposal to undertake a desert andsandstorm control trial project.

The sandstorm control trial project in Xuanhua County, Hebei Provincebegan several years ago.

Following its success, the Chinese government and Ecofuture entered into afour-year agreement worth RM3mil to extend the project to other parts ofChina this year.

"When I went there in July last year, I was very happy to discover theonce barren desert was covered with greenery on the soil protected byEcomat. The trial project in China opened up my eyes. I began to look atthe world map and realised that there are a lot of places that are coveredwith desert. I started looking at possibility of undertaking desert stormcontrol projects in other countries," said Yeo who studied chemistry atthe Nanyang University of Singapore.

Today, two countries in the Middle East - Kuwait and Lebanon - are alsotesting the Ecomat for desert storm control.

Soon-to-be listed on Bursa Malaysia Mesdaq market, Ecofuture is also nowexploring Taiwan and Japan for opportunities to market Ecomat.

Yeo’s fervour for new discoveries inspired her to take over an old palmoil mill and start up a business of recycling bio-mass by-products inSegamat, Johor along with her two business partners in 1993.

On what inspired her to venture into the business, she said:" Actually itwas due to my interest. I grabbed the opportunity realising about the twobiggest problems affecting the industry particularly disposal of biomassand empty fruit bunches. I discovered that empty fruit bunches could beused to create many products after attending seminars by organisedresearch centres and institutions in early 1990s." Yeo who is affable andhas an easy manner, began her career in her late 20s in a palm oil mill inTerengganu as a laboratory analyst dealing with quality control for oilpalm after she completed her studies.

"My degree was not recognised so I was given the post of a laboratoryanalyst. I held the position for about three years before taking up amanagement position in a Kuala Lumpur-based company dealing with palm oil.I worked for three companies before starting Ecofuture in Johor."

Being married and having two children also did not hinder Yeo fromjuggling between her career and family to pursue her interest in carryingout research work on how to create new products from oil palm residues.

"I believe we must have commitment, initiative and confidence. We can'tjust rely on research centres," she said.

Ecofuture had initially collaborated with the Forest Research Institute ofMalaysia to develop its core invention - the Ecofibrex machine - to shredfibre from empty fruit bunches in 1996.

"But along the way, we injected our own initiative and improved thetechnology for fibre shredding," she said.

So far, Yeo said Ecofuture had invested between RM1mil and RM2mil fortrial and research purposes.

"We will still invest in research as and when such investments arerequired," she said. Ecofuture's strategies were to expand its coreactivities, diversify into related businesses, brand building andpenetration into new markets.

Yeo said: "If there are opportunity we may possibly promote our product inEurope."

She said interested parties from several countries including Japan andAustralia had approached the company expressing interest in Ecomat.

Domestically, she said the company hoped to work with the Works Departmentto resolve soil erosion on local roads.

Besides Ecomat, the company has developed Ecofibre, Ecopot and plantingmaterials.

"I'm happy with my achievement not because of money. I just feel that atleast I am contributing to the industry and the global environment.

"At least we can focus on downstream products and not rely too much onpalm oil price that fluctuates often. It is something out of our control,"Yeo added.