Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) opened the doors to its Botanical Research Centre today, a five-acre plot of heath forest that will host international research into botany and herbal medicine.

Located at the university’s Tungku campus, scientists were able to identify over 100 tree species and 200 herbal plants at the centre, which will play a key role in developing UBD’s research thrusts as well as promote conservation of tropical plant species.

“The centre was built without disturbing the surrounding forest, and we have incorporated many green elements into it such as solar panels and a wind turbine to power the greenhouse and café,” said UBD’s Director of Innovation Pengiran Dr Mohammad Iskandar Pengiran Hj Petra.

“Although it does not supply 100 per cent of the power needs, we hope to move towards that in future.”

The launch of the centre coincides with the university’s first international symposium on “Ethnobotany in the Quran and Hadith”, which was officiated by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam this morning.

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Botanists from Asia, the US and the UK gathered for the one-day conference to exchange ideas and research into ethnobotany, an area of scientific study that explores traditional knowledge and customs concerning plants and their medical, religious, and other uses.

UBD Vice-Chancellor, Datin Dr Hjh Anita Binurul Zahrina Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Wijaya Dato Seri Setia Hj Awg Abdul Aziz, said Brunei’s exceptional biodiversity lends itself well to research into ethnobotany and sustainable use of tropical resources.

She added that the Botanical Research Centre will serve as an educational resource for the public with potential for commercialisation.

Scientists have identified over 200 herbal plant species at the UBD Botanical Research Centre, which is located on a five-acre plot of tropical heath forest. Photo: Ain Bandial/The Scoop

PhD researcher Vanessa Teo, founder of smart-farming company AGROME IQ, said the university hopes to grow herbal plants commercially at the centre.

“What we [AGROME IQ] plans to do is help provide market access and agricultural analytics,” she told The Scoop. “We’ve already embarked on several urban farming projects with schools and hope to apply our expertise here.”