Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. has purchased a site in an industrial park in Fukuroi City, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, for the construction of a research facility and a plant for a new business project.
The official contract will be concluded after the procedures for land acquisition are completed in April. The property is located in the Kuno Industrial Park, which is being developed and prepared by Fukuroi City for industrial use. The area to be obtained by Yamaha Motor measures approximately 37,367 m2.
Yamaha Motor will utilize botanical biotechnology in developing the new business, which draws on the photosynthesis functions of microscopic algae for the production of value-added substances useful in agriculture, forestry and fishery, as well as in the areas of food and cosmetics. Since this business uses natural microscopic algae and causes no environmental impact, it fits Fukuroi City's vision of transforming itself into "the healthiest and culturally wealthiest city in Japan," and exemplifies the Fukuroi philosophy of realizing shared ambitions.
Yamaha Motor's botanical biotechnology business is derived from the company's efforts to maximize carbon dioxide (CO2) as a usable resource by bio-engineering microscopic algae for the purpose. Ultimately, these R&D activities seek to address environmental issues such as global warming. To this end, the company has developed an original algae cultivation system, which consists of (1) methods to discover and breed species of "high-performance" microscopic algae, (2) aquatic environment control technology to maintain the optimum composition of culture water, and (3) a photobioreactor - a photosynthesis device that allows highly efficient and highly concentrated mass cultivation of microscopic algae.
Using the algae cultivation system in a joint research project with Nisshin OilliO, Ltd., Yamaha Motor succeeded in developing an effective mass culture of a diatom - Chaetoceros calcitrans - at a concentration nearly six times higher than that of the conventional culture technology. Chaetoceros calcitrans is known as an aqua-culture supplement - a rare bait essential for the larval stage of shellfish or crustacea in aquaculture - but it had been considered difficult to grow in concentrated mass cultures until the development of this new product. The Chaetoceros calcitrans has been marketed on a test basis since last year. Now Yamaha Motor plans to develop algae cultivation systems further, using the technology to research functional materials and to produce rare feed for marine organisms, in addition to a number of other useful substances.
Japan's biotechnology strategy focuses on the area of health and medical science, and aims to create new industrial applications to enhance people's lives, lifestyles, and food supply. Since improving the natural environment and finding ways to make our earth a more comfortable place to live are part of the global mission of 21st century industry, expectations for biotechnology-based businesses continue to grow. Though there are a number of issues in biotech that remain to be addressed, Yamaha Motor is committed to help build new industries and a better society through biotechnology; specifically, by further developing its original algae cultivation technology.
(1) About microscopic algae
It is believed that the progenitors of microscopic algae may have their origin in blue-green algae that first occurred about 3,600 million years ago, and subsequently divided into what now are classified as about 20,000 to 30,000 different species. The size of most microscopic algae ranges from about 3 to 100 micrometers. Some can live for about two to three months in dry, dark locations. Microscopic algae naturally occur in water (including saltwater, estuarine water, and fresh water), soil, and air.
(2) About photosynthesis
Photosynthesis is a process in green plants by which carbon dioxide is fixed using light as an energy source, i.e., a reaction converging carbon dioxide in the air. In the process, carbohydrates and oxygen are synthesized from carbon dioxide and water. The existence of almost all living things on earth, including plants and animals, depends on photosynthesis.
(3) About photobioreactor
A photobioreactor is a photosynthesis device developed for low-cost mass cultivation of microscopic algae.
It optimizes the supply of the source nutrient and the intensity of solar light provided to the algae based on the computer simulation results, thus boosting the carbon dioxide fixing rate per unit area.