Utilizing Yeast and Microorganisms

Against a backdrop of food shortages associated with the rising global population and climate change, there are growing needs for mechanism that ensure the sustainable supply of food. In addition to the manufacturing and sale of alcoholic beverages, soft drinks and foods, the Asahi Group utilizes applied technologies in fermentation and microorganisms developed through the beer brewing process in pursuit of research into new ways to make use of by-products. Additionally, through an animal nutrition business that utilizes microorganism-based technologies cultivated through research into lactic acid bacteria such as Calpis for livestock and agriculture, we contribute to the safe and secure provision of food.
By expanding these initiatives and business activities, the Asahi Group aims to ensure the safe, secure and sustainable supply of food and contribute to the formation of a recycling-oriented society.

Related Information

The potential for the yeast cell wall, a byproduct of beer brewing

Development of the agricultural material

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Rice plants using an agricultural supplement made from yeast cell walls (right), and conventionally cultivated rice plants (left)

The Asahi Group is committed to ensuring stable and consistent supplies of food to feed the world. Since 2004, we have been working on the development of a new type of agricultural material that utilizes the plant immunity properties of beer yeast cell wall, a by-product of the brewing process.

Beer yeast is a by-product left over from the brewing process. This yeast that remains after brewing is used as the raw material for making tablets of the natural beer yeast product, Ebios, or is broken down and turned into yeast extract, becoming a raw material for flavorings and the like. However, the water-insoluable yeast cell walls in the by-product cannot be absorbed by plants, so have not been put to any use to date.

After ten years of research into yeast cell wall, the Asahi Group has created a processed form of beer yeast that is more easily absorbed by plants, and this forms the basis of an exciting new agricultural material that can be used to boost crop yields while reducing reliance on agricultural chemicals. Trials on tomato and rice crops have shown evidence of drastic improvement in root growth and disease resistance.

As this agricultural material allows for a reduction in the amount of agricultural chemicals and chemical fertilizer used, it offers safety, peace of mind and potential effects such as enhanced quality and soil improvements. Moreover, the increased crop yields also enable lower greenhouse gas emissions as a percentage of yield.

Establishment of Asahi Biocycle Co., Ltd.

Asahi Biocycle Co., Ltd. was founded in 2017 as part of the Asahi Group's commitment to addressing some of the key challenges of our time through its business activities.* Asahi Biocycle is currently working on technology innovation and value creation projects such as the rejuvenation of abandoned farmland in coordination with stakeholders in the agriculture, forestry, landscaping and livestock industries.

* In April 2020, the feed business of Asahi Calpis Wellness Co., Ltd. was integrated with Asahi Biocycle.

Over the years, the Asahi Group has conducted research to cultivate technologies related to fermentation and the utilization of useful microorganisms including yeast, lactic acid bacteria and Bacillus subtilis. Moving forward, Asahi Biocycle Co., Ltd. will continue to apply these technologies, such as agricultural materials that utilize beer yeast cell walls, to ensure the safe and secure supply of food and contribute to the realization of eco-friendly agricultural on a global scale.

Dispersion of the material onto potatoes is shown to increase yields

In the collaborative research with Hokkaido University in 2018, Asahi Biocycle Co., Ltd. demonstrated the yield-boosting effects of dispersing the agricultural material using the beer yeast cell wall onto the surface of potato leaves. The beer yeast cell wall has a structure similar to that of plant pathogens. We found that dispersing this agricultural material onto leaf surfaces induced a defensive response from plants and would consequently help to increase yields from a potato tuber.
The securement of food will become increasingly important as a consequence of phenomena such as dramatic increase in the global population and abnormal weather. Through the utilization of the material, we will pursue a sustainable society by stimulating an increase in yields of farm products.

Utilization of the agricultural material with the yeast cell wall

Efforts in developing countries

The Asahi Group has partnered with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) since 2019, aiming to contribute to solving the issues of farm operations in developing countries.

The Asahi Group provides agricultural materials to a public-private project for the development of a farm product distribution system in Indonesia, implemented by JICA, and to a participatory project for agricultural promotion in Savannakhet, Laos. In cooperation with JICA, we offer technical support for the projects. We grow vegetables on a trial basis in DKI Jakarta, Indonesia. The technical support is aimed at developing a system that will allow high-quality, safe crops to be harvested, and proposing an agricultural production system that will be able to increase and maintain the incomes of farmers. Farming in Laos mainly involves the cultivation of rice, which we grow on a trial basis to enhance its productivity and quality, among other reasons.

Furthermore, JICA organizes training programs and experiments aiming to ensure that international researchers engaged in the promotion of rice cultivation and the advancement of agriculture in developing countries would acquire knowledge and skills in farming at JICA's training centers in Japan and improve the farming practice in their country. The Asahi Group pursues a sustainable society by providing training on the agricultural material using the yeast cell wall in different training programs and encouraging the use of the material in the developing countries.

The Asahi Group has earned recognition for its contributions to sustainable agriculture in Japan and overseas. In December 2019, we received the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Prize as part of the 2nd Eco Pro Awards organized by the Japan Environmental Management Association for Industry, while in April 2020, we received the Minister of Environment Award as part of the 47th Environmental Awards run by Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun, Ltd.

Reduction of agricultural chemicals in golf course greens

The unique agricultural material developed by Asahi, while designed primarily as a means of promoting crop plant growth while reducing reliance on fertilizers and agricultural chemicals, has also proven popular for ground maintenance at golf courses and schools. Whereas golf course greens normally require huge quantities of chemicals, the agricultural material has been shown to promote healthy growth and fresh green growth within ten days of application. This creates a robust lawn surface perfect for golf, without the need for chemicals. The material has been adopted by over a third of golf courses in Japan.

In 2019, the material was also used as a fertilizer for grass covering the grounds of the Hanshin Koshien Stadium, underscoring its versatility for a range of surfaces in addition to golf courses. The material has the potential to greatly contribute to the safe, secure and sustainable management of lawn with the minimal use of agricultural chemicals in golf courses and parks all over Japan and around the world. Using the material, we will push forward with detailed verifications and analyses in field tests on lawn management and farm practices. In this way we will propose sustainable systems for growing plants and pursue a sustainable society.

Use of a Composting Accelerator

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Asahi Biocycle co., Ltd. seeks to develop systems to recycle food resources by efficiently converting the waste produced from raising livestock, food processing and other operations into compost and reusing the results through the application of Thervelics, a composting accelerator that contains the original strain Bacillus subtilis C-3102. Thervelics efficiently carries out composting by accelerating the fermentation of food waste, such as vegetable peels, advancing the speed of decomposition.
Use of this component also offers the potential for increased crop yields and a reduction in the amount of chemical fertilizers used.
The Asahi Group believes that the greater application of Thervelics will reduce the impact on the environment by reducing the volume of food waste, promote recycling-oriented agriculture that utilizes compost, promote food recycling and contribute to the formation of a recycling-oriented society.

Food waste recycling in employee cafeterias

The Asahi Group has introduced a composter that uses Thervelics to some of its staff canteens. The composter achieves zero kitchen waste and contributes to reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the transportation and incineration of kitchen waste by converting waste and leftovers from canteens into compost.
The high-quality, mature compost eventually produced is supplied to farming families, where it is used for growing crops.

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Utilizing Probiotics for Livestock

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CALSPORIN (Bacillus subtilis strain C-3102) from Asahi Biocycle Co., Ltd. is a probiotic that regulates the intestinal flora of livestock. Its benefits include improved feed efficiency and increased livestock size. CALSPORIN is currently sold in more than 57 countries worldwide, making it possible to save approximately 660,000 tons of mixed feed grains (soybean, corn, flour, etc.) per year worldwide. The grain saved could be used as food for people, helping to solve the global food shortage problem. According to Asahi Biocycle Co., Ltd. estimates, assuming CALSPORIN was used for livestock feed worldwide, food for 125 million people could be produced.