Moved by the tragic ordeal of Typhoon Yolanda victims, Kiyosada Egawa came to the Philippines with a vision to provide innovative food products that can sustain calamity-stricken Filipinos marooned in islands that were left without access to food, power, or water.
Egawa set up BiotechJP in 2015 and turned to his patented Plant Origin Lactobacilli (POLAB) technology to produce ready-to-eat rice products which now hold the record of having the longest shelf life in the market. He also developed low protein high-fiber rice products for kidney and diabetic patients who need to satisfy their calorific requirements while continuing to lead normal lives.
From victims of natural disasters to patients suffering from chronic kidney disease, Egawa recently added marginalized agricultural producers to the growing roster of beneficiaries of BiotechJP’s innovations. In 2018, the company started a project called Rice Revolution 21, envisioned to transfer Japanese rice technology to the Philippines across the entire rice value chain, starting with cultivation, collection, drying, milling, processing, and retail. It aimed to enhance the capacity of the Philippines to trade processed and well-milled rice across the globe as well as increase the incomes of Philippine farmers, millers, and production operators.
In 2021, agriculture accounted for around 10% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). Unfortunately, the sector has not grown as fast as it should because of the country’s vulnerability to natural disasters as well as remaining challenges related to infrastructure and productivity.
The Philippines’ farming sector is characterized by large industrial farms co-existing with smallholders or family farms. Compared to industrial farms, smallholders are disadvantaged due to their relative lack of access to a supporting ecosystem, technology, and agronomic expertise. BiotechJP believes that Rice Revolution 21 can offer solutions to these challenges.
BiotechJP signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Tarlac Governor Susan Yap for a Rice Revolution pilot project last 22 July 2021. Under the MOU, the Provincial Government of Tarlac agreed to identify and provide a list of qualified rice farmers as well as available farmland while BiotechJP committed to providing Japanese seedlings, rice farming technology, and machinery to local farmers.
To set the trial run in motion, BiotechJP partnered with a rice farming cooperative in Gerona, Tarlac in November 2021. The pilot involved the planting of Japanese rice seedlings in a one-hectare farm. The company imported Koshi Hikari, sworn by many as the best rice variety in Japan, from the Echigo plains of Niigata, widely known as the rice capital of Japan, and engaged a Japanese agricultural expert in the person of Mr. Juntaro Nakajima to train farmers in smart farming methods.
By Japanese standards, a two thousand (2000) square meter of land can harvest around 400 kg rice paddy. While the company initially estimated a harvest of below 200 kg rice paddy, the company reported over 260 kg harvest of a rice paddy at the beginning of March 2022. This encouraged BiotechJP to move into the next phase of introducing POLAB for soil and rice management.
Egawa said, “The better-than-expected results will help us transfer Japanese rice flour technology to the Philippines. I pray that Rice Revolution will help Filipino farmers attain the same socioeconomic standing as their Japanese counterparts. I hope to see the model expanding across the country and farmers gaining greater economic leverage. We can move more quickly to producing yogurt, rice enhancer, low protein, and gluten free bread in the Philippines.”
Special Trade Representative Dita Angara-Mathay of the Philippine Trade and Investment Center in Tokyo (PTIC-Tokyo), who facilitated the entry of the Niigata-based SME to the Philippines more than 5 years ago added, “The entry of more Japanese SMEs into the Philippines redounds to strategic benefits for the Philippines. As Japanese SMEs expand beyond their borders to take advantage of regional free trade mechanisms and seize market demand opportunities from growing populations, we stand to benefit from the transfer of technology, influx of experts, and supply chain enhancements Japanese SMEs will carry along with them in their movement to our market. As in the case of BiotechJP, DTI commits to helping Japanese SME investors navigate their way through the administrative intricacies and operational challenges of setting up first-time bases abroad.”
Originally posted on: https://www.dti.gov.ph