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Agriculture: Sustainable Agriculture through Film Farming

Agriculture: Sustainable Agriculture through Film Farming

Mebiol Inc.

Growing Vegetables with Less Water 

M

ebiol, Inc. has invented a film called “Imec” made of hydrogel for growing vegetables with less water. Using this method, agriculture can be done virtually anywhere -- even on desert land or concrete. The film prevents harmful viruses and germs from getting in, rendering pesticides unnecessary. The film also creates a “water stress” that helps crops such as tomatoes synthesize large amounts of sugar, amino acids, and other nutrients. This, in turn, leads to more natural sweetness and higher nutritional value. In addition, Imec eliminates soil contamination that can negatively impact crop productivity and quality.

Imec was invented by Dr. Yuichi Mori, CEO. He did so after 30 years of developing membranes and hydrogel technologies that are utilized in dialysis membranes, catheters, artificial blood vessels, and other forms of medical equipment. He wanted this invention to stabilize food supplies and address safety issues created by water shortages and soil contamination as a result of global warming.

At its core, Imec film encourages plants to make a large number of capillary roots so as to more efficiently take in nutrients.

Major Features and Advantages

I. Reduces Water Consumption
Imec reduces water consumption to less than a quarter of what is needed for hydroponic farming, and 1/10 of conventional farming using soil. The sugar content in Imec tomatoes, for example, is nearly twice that of hydroponic tomatoes.

II. Use in Barren Areas
Imec can produce results even in barren areas that lack agriculture, such as areas of Japan that have been devastated by tsunamis. It can even be used in the soil-contaminated suburbs of Shanghai or in hot and unforgiving Dubai deserts.

III. Easy to check the roots of plants
Because capillary roots are so crucial for healthy plants, they need to be at their best to yield quality crops. With Imec, it is easy for anyone to check the density and color of roots. This offers a better way to diagnose any potential problems that may exist in crops like tomatoes.

Technology Data

Conceivable Applications

We invented a film made of hydro-gel for growing vegetables with less water. This method (called Imec) allows for agriculture anywhere, even on desert land or concrete. Since the film blocks harmful viruses and germs, pesticides are unnecessary. Better yet, the “water stress” the film creates induces crops like tomatoes to synthesize large amounts of sugar, amino acids, and other beneficial nutrients, leading to greater sweetness and higher nutritional value. Imec also eliminates the soil contamination that affects the productivity and the quality of crops.

Competitive Advantage

Using Imec reduces water consumption to less than a quarter of hydroponic farming. The sugar content in Imec tomatoes is almost twice as much as that of hydroponic tomatoes. Imec “makes visible” the condition of roots that could not be seen with conventional agricultural technologies. A very large number of capillary roots grow when using Imec. Capillary roots are highly important organs for plants, and they affect the health of crops, influencing both yield and quality. Seeing the amount of roots and their color and the amount of water and nutrients absorbed is an effective way to understand the condition of the tomatoes and diagnose any potential problems. By using Imec film—a uniform industrial product—instead of soil, even inexperienced individuals can learn reproducible agriculture in a short period of time.

Performance

Using Imec reduces water consumption to less than a quarter of hydroponic farming. The sugar content in Imec tomatoes is almost twice as much as that of hydroponic tomatoes.

Technical maturity

Imec was introduced for the first time in Japan in 2008. The diffusion area now has reached over 330,000㎡and is still expanding. Taking advantage of the characteristic of Imec that can produce high-quality crops even barren areas without agriculture, people are starting to produce high-quality tomatoes in the devastated areas by Tsunami in Japan, in the suburbs of Shanghai where the soil contamination is concerned, and in the Dubai desert areas.

Growth Profile of Domestic Imec Farms (a)

Conceivable risk

Farmers are conservative to adopt new technologies. More than 60% of our customer base comes from manufacturing and other non-agricultural industries.

Information on patent related to this technology

JP3678654 (PCT/JP2000/002552, Registered in 17 countries, including 14 EPO countries (IE, CY, ES, LU, FR, MC, GB, BE, CH, LI, IT, NL, DE, and AT), IL, and US) 

JP4625408 (PCT/JP2004/000319, Registered in 16 countries, including CA, CN, 9 EPO countries (FR, GB, DE, DK, FI, HU, SE, SI, and TR), HK, KR, IL, and US) 

JP4142725 (PCT/JP2007/067578, Registered in 111 countries, including AE, 15 ARIPO countries (BW, GH, GM, KE, LS, MW, MZ, NA, SD, SL, SZ, TZ, UG, and ZM), AU, BN, BR, CA, CN, CO, DO, DZ, 9 EAPO countries (AM, AZ, BY, KG, KZ, MD, RU, TJ, and TM),EG, 26 EPO countries (AL, BA, BG, HR, CH, LI, CY, CZ, DE, ES, FR, GB, GR, IE, IS, IT, LV, LT, LU, MC, MK, MT, NL, PL, PT, and RO), CA, CN, HK, KR, GE, GT, HK, HN, ID, IL, IN, KR, LK, LR, MA, ME, MN, MO, MX, MY, NG, NI, NO, NZ, 16 OAPI countries (BF, BJ, CF, CG, CI, CM, GA, GN, GQ, GW, ML, MR, NE, SN, TD, and TG), PH, SG, SV, SY, TN, TW, UA, US, UZ, VN, and ZA) 

JP5807013 (PCT/JP2011/070596, Registered in 10 countries, including AU, CN, 6 GCC countries (AE, BH, KW, OM, QA, and SA), and KR) 

JP5960102 (PCT/JP2014/071141, Applied to 130 countries; registered in 8 countries so far, including AU, CA, DK, MN, NZ, SG, and UA; while remaining under examination in 122 countries)

Company Data

Name Mebiol Inc.
Address 1-25-8 Nakahara, Hiratsuka, Kanagawa 254-0075, Japan
Capital

JPY 94,000,000 (As of February 28th 2018)

Contact person

Hiroshi Yoshioka
Executive Vice President
Tel:+81-463-37-4301
Fax:+81-463-37-4302
e-mail: yoshioka@mebiol.co.jp

Number of employees 9 (As of February 28th 2018)
Date of company foundation

September 18, 1995

The type of business

Agriculture Technology

International operation

Number of employees for international operation (including overseas operation, if any)

4 (including Mebiol Europe)

Overseas offices

City , Country

Name of company (if applicable)

London, UK

Mebiol Europe Ltd.

Modality of business transaction

Partnership
Next, we would like to ask the customer who purchased our product to be a local distributor of our Imec system, once the customer has learned about our technology.

Export of product
At first, we would like to sell the full Imec system directly from Japan to a local customer.

Licensing of patent
Finally, we would like to license our Imec system patent to the distributer for local production of the Imec system.

Attachments

Schematic illustration of the technology

Imec (film farming) is the world’s first agricultural technology developed to cope with stable food supplies, produce quality assurance, water shortages, soil degradation, pollution, and other serious issues that the world is facing today. Imec is a technology for cultivating plants on a special film, called a hydrogel membrane, placed over a nutrient solution. This film has countless nano-sized holes blocking bacteria and viruses, drastically reducing the use of pesticides and producing safe crops even when the nutrient solution gets contaminated. Imec also eliminates the loss of water and fertilizer.

Due to the nature of the hydrogel, the nutrient solution absorbed into the film does not come out even if the film is squeezed. The crop produces an enormous number of capillary roots to ingest the nutrient solution in the film. However, since this root system is still insufficient to ingest all the available nutrients, the plant synthesizes a large quantity of sugar and other products to raise its intracellular osmotic pressure. The resulting osmolality gap allows the plant to transfer the culture medium from the hydromembrane, leading to high nutritional content due to water stress. Imec is an innovative farming technology that maximizes the latent potential of crops.

Mebiol is also developing a new plant factory technology aimed at cultivating leaf vegetables like lettuce using Imec film.

       

Soil is the main factor for agricultural produce, but it is very difficult to accurately control its nature because it depends on the place and season. It is said that making the proper soil and acquiring the watering techniques needed for the stable production of high-quality tomatoes (known as fruit tomatoes) can take ten years. By using Imec film—a uniform industrial product—instead of soil, even inexperienced individuals can learn reproducible agriculture in a short period of time.

With Imec, farmers can produce high-quality vegetables even in deserts, areas with contaminated or salt-damaged soil, and inside buildings. The Imec film is completely isolated from the ground by waterproof sheet, so it is not affected by the soil. At the same time, since the supplied water and fertilizer do not leak, the amount of water and fertilizer used is much less than in conventional farming methods. This is a very environmentally friendly farming method. Currently, farmers are implementing Imec farming in the deserts of United Arab Emirates (UAE) and in areas with the pollution risks in China. We shall be very pleased if Imec were to help to create employment in areas unsuitable for agriculture, help their economies recover, and help their people regain hope.

 

Video Link

Public relation videos on YouTube, made by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs:.

ENGLISH: https://youtu.be/eu5EwxMwHyc
CHINESE: https://youtu.be/bkS7UDmyuC0
FRENCH: https://youtu.be/Gi-8ZyoF2oM
SPANISH: https://youtu.be/MSCV38vY0V4
PORTUGUESE: https://youtu.be/_ftm1cXqbZA
ARABIC: https://youtu.be/X1iPeqYsCbM

Dr. Mori’s presentation at the “Relais & Châteaux Event in Tokyo” was uploaded to YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hn1yOjqBc4E

Imec was introduced in “We Are Tomodachi Autumn 2015,” issued by the Japanese government.
Please visit We Are Tomodachi.

Soil-free agriculture [English]: Yuichi Mori at TEDxTokyo

Recorded live at TEDxTokyo on May 21, 2011, at the Miraikan in Odaiba.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWUt6hT_8Lo

 

 

Contact Person(s) *Please mention that you saw UNIDO's website when making the first contact with the company.

Mr. Hiroshi YoshiokaE-mail: yoshioka@mebiol.co.jp

Registered Category

  • Low carbon & energy conservation : Agriculture, fishing, and forestry