Realising how the humble microbes can naturally heal diseased plants and increase production yield while benefitting Mother Nature, Eric Chung, Managing Director and CEO of Virgin Greens X Sdn Bhd, took the plunge into biotechnology entrepreneurship. Top 10 of Malaysia speaks to him on how he plans to transform the agribusiness industry from chemical-based to biotechnology-based and make it green and sustainable.
Hong Kong-born Eric Chung was steadily climbing the corporate ladder in the finance industry when he discovered his niche as a biotechnology entrepreneur in 1996. “After years of working for others, I reached a crossroad: should I continue fulfilling other people’s dreams or make a difference my way?” he reminisces. He chose the latter, investing and participating in several biotechnology projects in Malaysia. During this time, he filed three biotechnology-based patents. In 2013, Chung decided to consolidate and hold his interests in these biotechnology projects under Virgin Greens X Sdn Bhd (VGX (M)) and assigned all three patents to VGX (M).
Microbes, according to Chung, are tiny living things that surround us and even live within us. “VGX (M) was born out of a vision to supply environmentally friendly microbial based solutions in agriculture as an alternative to using harmful chemicals,” he said. The Group’s core business revolves around the research, development and commercialisation of food and agricultural related technologies, focusing on microbial product and biological process development. “We are not a business that sells products, rather, we are a complete solutions provider,” he emphasises.
Growing up, Chung experienced a relatively happy childhood. “We weren’t rich but we were content. When I was 18, my dream to go overseas came true when my parents bought me a one-way ticket to Australia to further my studies there,” he says. He had to juggle three part-time jobs while studying.
Chung graduated with both Science and Economics degrees from the Australian National University (ANU) and is a CPA in Australia and Hong Kong, signifying his talents as both a scientist and businessman. VGX (M) is the natural culmination of his passion in science and business acumen. “There is no point creating a great product which is not commercially viable,” he explains.
He chose to set up his headquarters in Malaysia as the country is a significant agricultural contributor in Asia Pacific. VGX (M) was granted BioNexus Status by the Malaysian government in 2015 and has qualified for the CIP 500 Funding programme. Recently, the Group added a big feather to its cap when it was listed on The National Stock Exchange of Australia Limited (NSX) as VGX Limited at the end of 2016. “This listing will not only enhance the Company’s profile to prominent research partners, but also boost our marketing efforts beyond Malaysian borders,” he divulges.
He attributes his company’s success to his team. “I made many mistakes on my journey to where I am today, that was how I learned and grew. Likewise, I give my team room to grow, to make mistakes and to learn from them,” says the steadfast leader who is always open for discourse and discussions.
Chung admits that at times, it is hard to maintain a healthy work-life balance. “Still, my wife and I try our best to make family life a priority,” says the doting father of two university-age daughters who are both studying at their parents’ alma mater, ANU. He happily reports that the girls relate to him as their friend.
Moreover, his advice to young aspiring entrepreneurs is profound. “Everyone has one life so decide if you want to have a comfortable one or (to quote Steve Jobs) put a dent in the universe. If you want the latter, remember that success comes not to those with the biggest and brightest brains but to those who work hard and don’t give up,” Chung says.
True to his core beliefs, Chung is not one to rest on his laurels. “This is just the beginning of our foray into the multi-billion dollar biotechnological agriculture industry,” he says in a matter-of-fact tone. “There is so much more to be done and the sky is the limit.”