OIST-grown company, EF Polymer, wins top prize in Japan’s 2021 Green Startup Pitch
The Ministry of the Environment of Japan has awarded first place prize to OIST-born startup EF Polymer, whose product promotes sustainability and solves key agricultural issues of climate change and drought.
EF Polymer K.K., a green-tech company developed through the OIST Innovation Square Startup Accelerator Program, which is supported by Okinawa Prefecture, has received this year’s Minister’s Prize for Environmental Startups.
The award is the top prize in the Green Startup Pitch, an annual awards event launched by the Ministry of the Environment of Japan in 2020. The initiative aims to promote the innovation and use of environmentally-friendly, sustainable technologies by providing support and opportunities for expansion to promising startups.
The awards event ceremony took place on March 9th, 2022, at the Tokyo International Forum and can also be viewed online.
Mr. Yoshiaki Ishii (right) received top prize in the Green Startup Pitch from Mr. Yasushi Hosaka, the Parliamentary Secretary for Environment of Japan (center).
Mr. Narayan Gurjar, Founder and CEO of EF Polymer, said, “We are thrilled to receive this prize from Japan’s Minister of the Environment. We hope that this award will help connect us to other programs and companies so that we can accelerate our activities and contribute towards greener solutions in agriculture and industry.”
Mr. Gurjar first established EF Polymer in India in October 2018, before joining the OIST accelerator program in 2019. Now headquartered in the incubator facilities at OIST, EF Polymer’s primary mission is to produce a cheap, organic and biodegradable polymer from waste plant matter, such as the inedible parts of fruits and vegetables. Every gram of their product, which is applied in a dried, powdered form, can absorb 100 milliliters of water. This therefore reduces the amount of water needed to irrigate crops, providing a key solution to the growing agricultural issue of drought.
“The upcycled polymer also retains fertilizer in the soil around the roots, cutting down the amount that needs to be applied and reducing detrimental leaching of fertilizer into the waterways,” added Mr. Yoshiaki Ishii, Operation Manager for EF Polymer in Japan. “Overall, the product promotes a sustainable, circular economy for agriculture, helping with Japan’s agricultural goals for 2050 laid out in their new Strategy for Sustainable Food Systems.”
Over the last year, EF Polymer has accelerated its research and development program, conducting pilot projects with farmers in six different prefectures in Japan – Okinawa, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Hyogo, Yamagata and Hokkaido – on a variety of different crops. Additional pilot projects are underway overseas, in India, Thailand, Nepal, South Korea, the U.S. and the Philippines. So far, the company have recorded boosts in crop yield and farmers’ profits of around 15%.
The team have also been studying new uses that take advantage of the polymer’s super-absorbent properties, developing organic diapers, sanitary products, sandbags and ice packs.
“We are delighted by the continued success of our alumni startup, EF Polymer, and are proud to have helped the company grow,” said Mr. Hiroshi Yoshikawa, the Incubator/Accelerator Coordinator at OIST.
Mr. Gurjar added: “I want to thank my team, and those at OIST who supported us. This award gives us the motivation to keep doing good work for the environment.”