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August 24, 2023


Feeding Japan and... the World? NTT Green & Food

In May1 this year, the United Nations highlighted in their "Global Report on Food Crises" how the number of individuals in dire need of food aid is steadily increasing, with 2022 marking the fourth successive year of this trend. The report, a joint effort between various global bodies including the UN's World Food Programme, the World Bank, the European Union, the United States, and members of the Global Network against Food Crises, noted that an estimated 258 million people spread across 58 countries or territories were confronted with worsening levels of acute food insecurity.

Food security is becoming an ever-more formidable issue for humanity, and NTT is actively looking for solutions to help alleviate the problem. As part of its efforts, NTT has partnered with Kyoto-based Regional Fish to establish NTT Green & Food, a joint venture focused on mitigating food shortages, countering the decline in the fisheries industry, and tackling escalating environmental problems. The company, set to commence operations on July 1, 2023, is guided by the principle of utilizing technology to harness nature's resources and shape a sustainable future for the Earth and its food supplies.

Image: Feeding Japan and... the World? NTT Green & Food

At present, regional industries--agriculture, forestry, and fisheries--are facing significant obstacles, notably a shrinking and aging workforce, that are leading to a reduction in food self-sufficiency. The fisheries industry, once a symbol of Japanese national pride, is now in decline due to factors like global warming-induced ocean temperature rise and overfishing. These factors have damaged local fisheries and associated businesses, causing a drop in the availability of traditionally harvested coastal fish species.

Meanwhile, the global population surge and recent geopolitical threats have intensified the competition for food and resources, causing prices to soar to unprecedented levels. In response to this demand, there has been a noticeable increase in the production of fisheries, particularly aquaculture, indicating a pivotal shift from traditional fishing methods to a more "cultivated" approach.

NTT Green & Food is working to respond to these looming crises and asking difficult questions such as "Can we ensure the future of dining ten years from now?" and "Is it fair to pass on this duty to the next generation?" To address these challenges, the company aims to fuse NTT Group's Information and Communication Technology such as IoT and AI with Regional Fish's advanced breed improvement technology, aquaculture technology, and algae production technology that can absorb more CO2, potentially serving as a food source for seafood.

The venture is partnering with local governments and other entities to establish land-based aquaculture facilities to boost seafood production. The produced seafood will not only be sold as branded products in local supermarkets and restaurants but will also contribute to hometown tax initiatives and supplies for major private companies.

As it moves forward, NTT Green & Food will base everything it does on its foundational principle of using technology to leverage nature's resources and shape the future of food and the Earth. By strengthening and expanding collaborations with local communities and promoting environmentally conscious, sustainable land-based aquaculture, the company intends to rejuvenate Japan's fisheries industry.

The company's innovative approach includes the use of breeding technologies such as genome editing. Unlike the related but more imprecise genetic recombination technology, in which more than one DNA molecules are used to exchange genetic information, leading to the production of genetically distinct chromosomes, genome editing tweaks sequences already present in the organism and allows for the introduction of specific, targeted genetic changes with great safety and precision.

In addition, the company plans to set up land-based aquaculture systems incorporating renewable energy and water purification plants. Using IoT, AI, and other technologies, the company intends to monitor fish growth conditions, manage water quality, and automate feeding, thereby paving the way for a sustainable, tech-driven aquaculture industry.

Initially, NTT Green & Food will start its operations in Japan, but it believes that its techniques and breakthroughs have global relevance and could bolster worldwide food security. The venture aligns with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which place food at the core of the development agenda for the 21st century. NTT is proud to contribute to this endeavour, specifically to the second SDG2, which aims to "End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture" by 2030.

NTT--Innovating the Future of Food

*1'We have collectively failed': More than 250 million go hungry, finds UN-led reportOpen other window

*2The Sustainable Development Goals and foodOpen other window

Picture: Daniel O'Connor

Daniel O'Connor joined the NTT Group in 1999 when he began work as the Public Relations Manager of NTT Europe. While in London, he liaised with the local press, created the company's intranet site, wrote technical copy for industry magazines and managed exhibition stands from initial design to finished displays.

Later seconded to the headquarters of NTT Communications in Tokyo, he contributed to the company's first-ever winning of global telecoms awards and the digitalisation of internal company information exchange.

Since 2015 Daniel has created content for the Group's Global Leadership Institute, the One NTT Network and is currently working with NTT R&D teams to grow public understanding of the cutting-edge research undertaken by the NTT Group.