Against a backdrop of rising global population and climate change causing increasing concern about potential food shortages, 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.
Rice plants using an agricultural supplement made from yeast cell walls (right), and conventionally cultivated rice plants (left)
The agricultural material helps to reduce reliance on agricultural chemicals such as chemical fertilizers, while also improving the soil and delivering benefits in terms of food safety, yield consistency and crop quality. Improved yield translates to fewer greenhouse gas emissions per unit quantity of crop produced.
Asahi Biocycle, founded in 2017 as part of the Asahi Group's commitment to addressing some of the key challenges of our time, is currently working on technology innovation and value creation projects such as rejuvenation of abandoned farmland in consultation with stakeholders in the primary production, forestry and landscaping industries.
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.
Asahi Biocycle has plans to distribute the beer yeast cell wall material in Japan as well as overseas markets including Southeast Asia and the United States. We are confident that this new agricultural material will make an important contribution to food safety and security, and to environmentally sustainable farming practices.