OIST-Born Startup to address the drought issue on Awaji Island
EF Polymer, an alumni company of the OIST Startup Accelerator Program, has started a project with an OIST based agritech startup, Cultivera, to provide a solution to the drought on Awaji Island in Hyogo Prefecture.
Established in 2019 with the support of the OIST startup program, EF Polymer is primarily engaged in developing eco-friendly, organic polymers. Additionally in Okinawa, EF Polymer has been working on developing liquid fertilizer from crop residues and from 2020, the company also conducted a collaborative experiment with Orion Breweries, Ltd. to develop an organic liquid fertilizer using surplus yeast from beer. Now, a new project is to be launched on Awaji Island, in which the company aims to realize efficient water resource management by using polymers that can store high amounts of water on farmlands faced with drought.
In recent years, Awaji Island has been suffering from a massive drought due to a lack of rainfall during the winter, leading to a decrease in the harvest yield of agricultural products. On the other hand, there are also concerns that crops will suffer root rot due to the extreme amount of precipitation on days when it does rain. In this project, an experiment will be conducted on some onion farmlands of acqua.verde AWAJI corporation in the southern part of Awaji Island.
In the experiment, EF Polymer's organic polymers will be used in outdoor cultivation, and Cultivera's membrane technology will be tested in the greenhouses. EF Polymer plans to assess whether the polymer, which can retain a high amount of water that is then slowly released into the soil, is able to keep the soil sufficiently hydrated even when there is no rainfall, and soak up excess water when heavy rainfall occurs.
Cultivera is an agritech startup which has its own agricultural production corporation and is developing new environmentally adaptive agricultural technologies, such as membrane cultivation using high-density fibers. This technology intentionally generates and cultivates moist roots of plants by controlling the humidity of the root zone space using special fibers, making it possible to grow crops with little water and no drainage. The company has also been a resident of the OIST Incubation Center since February of this year, making the project an example of collaboration between two OIST-based startups.
"I am looking forward to see the result that the incorporation of new technologies, such as polymers and membrane cultivation, will have on the issue of climate change, which has become more extreme on Awaji Island in recent years,” says Koryu Toyota, President of acqua.verde AWAJI Co.
The project team plans to assess the actual effect of the initial application of the polymers and the membrane technology and conduct an application experiment on seedbeds this fall.
Narayan Gurjar, CEO of EF Polymer, commented, "Our aim for joining this project is to explore the effectiveness of our product, and identify the potential of this product in a different climate and region from Okinawa. The best outcome would be to solve the farmers’ water problem and provide them with a sustainable solution.”
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