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February 9, 2023

NTT Corporation
Regional Fish Institute, Ltd.

NTT Corporation and Regional Fish Institute to Establish a Joint Venture to Solve Food-Related Problems and Reduce Environmental Impact

Tokyo - Feb. 9, 2023 - NTT Corporation (Headquarters: Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, President & CEO: Akira Shimada, "NTT") and Regional Fish Institute, Ltd. (Headquarters: Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture, President & CEO: Tadanori Umekawa, "Regional Fish") have signed an MOU (memorandum of understanding) for the establishment of a joint venture company related to the green food business, aiming to solve future food shortages and global environmental problems.

1. Background & Purpose

Global environmental problems, such as climate change, are becoming more serious each year. In addition, due to various elements of social uncertainty—such as competition for water, food, and resources due to future population explosion, geopolitical risks, and the pandemic caused by the spread of new coronavirus infection—the need to ensure food security is a more pressing issue than ever before. For example, the so-called protein crisis1 is expected to occur around 2030 when the demand for protein exceeds the supply.

Furthermore, Japan faces various challenges, such as a long-term decline in the working population of the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries and an accelerated aging population, as well as a decline in productivity and food self-sufficiency. These trends are particularly noticeable in the fishing industry, where both the number of workers and the production volume of fish products have decreased by about 60% in roughly 30 years. Japan, although once the world's number one producer, has now fallen to eighth place2. The fishing industry in Japan can no longer provide the stable supply of marine products that have been on our dining tables.

Therefore, there is an even greater need for recycling-oriented and sustainable efforts to maintain and develop industry while considering the environment and coexisting with nature.

Considering these circumstances, NTT and Regional Fish have developed a sustainable land-based aquaculture system that utilizes state-of-the-art breeding technology3, aquaculture technology, information and communication technology such as IoT and AI, as well as environmental load reduction technology. Together, the companies have begun to conduct demonstration experiments of carbon dioxide conversion technology to revive Japan's fishing industry and solving social issues, such as the global food shortage, while reducing the burden on the global environment4.

NTT possesses superior algae breed-selection technology, cultivation technology, breed improvement technology, and information and communication technology, such as AI and IoT. Regional Fish possesses breed improvement technology for seafood and land-based farming know-how and aims to commercialize carbon dioxide conversion technology. As part of commercialization, NTT and Regional Fish have signed a basic agreement to establish a green food joint venture company to produce and sell seafood.

2. The Green Food Business

Generally, there are three core businesses related to the commercialization of carbon dioxide conversion: A. the production and sale of algae; B. the production and sale of seafood; and C. the development and provision of sustainable land-based aquaculture systems. As shown in Fig. 1, the green food business conducted through the joint venture will be the production and sales of seafood. Specifically, in cooperation with local governments and similar institutions, we will produce, process, and sell seafood to local businesses. We also aim to contribute to the local community by creating local business opportunities, creating new employment, and functioning as a place for education on cutting-edge aquacultural and environmental technology.

Fig. 1: Commercialization of carbon dioxide conversion technology Fig. 1: Commercialization of carbon dioxide conversion technology

A.Production and sale of algae (Fig. 1)

Algae fix5 carbon dioxide through photosynthesis while they grow. By utilizing NTT's various technologies, including algae breeding technology, mass cultivation technology that adjusts to achieve the optimal temperature, humidity, nutrients, and light intensity for algae production, and technology for selecting excellent varieties of algae, it is possible to engineer the algae to fix more carbon dioxide in their bodies than usual, all while activating photosynthesis and increasing the growth rate of the plants.

Algae, which contain DHA and EPA, are used as food for fish and shellfish, as well as a fertilizer for agriculture due to their high nutritional value. First of all, we will provide algae to aquaculture operators and farmers facing soaring feed and fertilizer costs due to the recent price surge in raw materials.

B.Production and sale of seafood (Fig. 1)

By utilizing breed improvement technology for regional fish to increase their growth rate and by feeding them algae containing a large amount of carbon dioxide (as in process A), we can fix more CO2 in the body of the fish and shellfish. In addition, we will develop smart land-based aquaculture implementing NTT's IoT, AI, and other technologies will produce seafood quickly and efficiently.

In addition, by utilizing breed improvement technology and breeding in land-based aquaculture facilities, we can reduce the impact of natural disasters, parasites such as Anisakis, and the risk of infectious diseases on production. Furthermore, by recycling breeding water containing excrement from fish and shellfish as nutrients for algae (aquaponics6), we can minimize water waste.

The seafood produced from this project will be provided to distributors, wholesalers and processors who are highly interested in ensuring food security due to recent challenges, including climate change, geopolitical risks, and pandemics.

C. Development and provision of a sustainable land-based aquaculture system (Fig. 1)

We will develop a land-based aquaculture system to produce the consumables outlined in A and B. The system consists of a plant that produces fish and shellfish, a plant that produces the algae that feed on them, and a water purification plant that purifies fish and shellfish excrement. First, we will develop and use the system for this project, and in the future, we aim to provide this system to outside parties (we assume that it will be provided through NTT Group companies and other similar initiatives).

3. Future Plans

NTT and Regional Fish aim to establish the joint venture in mid-2023. As a preliminary step, NTT will soon found a planning company to conduct preliminary studies and surveys.

Going forward, we will continue to discuss strategies with related partners to further expand and develop our green and food business.

1Population growth and economic development in emerging countries have led to improved living standards, and the balance between supply and demand for the proteins that humankind needs will collapse.

2Source: Japan Fisheries Agency. 2017 Fisheries White Paper.

3Breeding technology, including genome editing technology, intentionally cleaves specific nucleotide sequences in living organisms and alters the original functions by altering the nucleotide sequences that occur during the process of repairing the cleaved DNA. Unlike gene recombination technology that modifies functions by introducing genes from foreign sources, it is regarded as the same as conventional breeding because it only changes its own base sequence.

4Press Release (Nov. 12, 2021): NTT and RFI to start demonstration experiment with the aim of reducing carbon dioxide in the ocean

5The process of converting inorganic carbon such as carbon dioxide into organic carbon compounds such as sugar and absorbing them into the body.

6A cyclical production system that combines aquaculture and hydroponics. Fish excrement is decomposed by microorganisms and becomes fertilizer for plants, and the purified water is returned to the aquarium.

Media Contacts

NTT Corporation
Research Planning Division
Production Team

Regional Fish Institute, Ltd.
Corporate Planning Department
Public Relations

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