Iconic spheres emerge from the Malaysian jungle
THREE iconic spheres will become the recognisable symbol of the ambitious Crops for the Future project.
They are being constructed in what will become a ten-acre botanical garden near where the palm forests of Malaysia touch spacious and leafy suburbs of its capital, Kuala Lumpur. It lies next to the University of Nottingham's Malaysia campus, which has already identified land for its own expansion.
The first of the spheres, each shaped like an elliptical woven basket, will be completed by November this year and will become the visitor centre where people will be able to learn about food supply and security as well as research undertaken by the Crops for the Future Research Centre (CFFRC).
A second will house offices for researchers and the third will contain very high-quality controlled environments where climates can be controlled and plants can be put through their paces under totally different conditions, such as drought and extremes of temperature.
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Construction of the whole project, including a field research centre, laboratories, and greenhouses in the jungle, will be completed by March 2014. Work on building the field research centre begins this month and will take six months. Three species of tropical hard wood, off-cuts of signature species found in the tropical rain forests of Malaysia, are glued together to form the ribs of the spheres. The building will be "crowned" with green roofs.
Post-graduate students studying with the University of Nottingham in the realm of crop research will have access to the facilities as part of their studies and research.
CFFRC has a contract with the university to use its facilities and the main contract is through post-graduate students. They will carry out research at the CFFRC but using the huge resources of the university in Malaysia, Nottingham and China.
One of the challenges is to explore diversity so that the five million hectares of palm oil plantations are not destroyed but are managed alongside crops and animals.
"The project will give us facilities which are fit for purpose in the jungle, in the tropics," said Prof Sayed. "We contract the university to undertake specific projects but the two are legally separate."
A major worldwide conference on nutrition is planned for March next year in Kuala Lumpur to coincide with completion of the construction of the project. A key topic for discussion will be the problem of populations putting on weight as emerging nations become more prosperous and sedentary. The conference, International Obesity Congress, is being led by Professor Ian Macdonald, of Nottingham University who is an expert in obesity, nutrition, diabetes, exercise and physiology. It will be linked to research undertaken by CFFRC.