Mitsubishi Research Institute, Inc.

Water & Food

The goal is to realize a society everyone is provided with clean water and safe, nourishing food.

Sub-themes

At the Innovation Network for Co-Creating the Future, we believe that the following 5 changes will have a significant impact in resolving societal problems in the area of Water and Food.

Innovation in the supply of safe and secure food

Social problem

  • Growing costs for food contamination prevention and appropriate measures following food related criminal cases

    As food production and supply chains globalize, the risk of and costs for food-related fraud and terrorism have increased. Consequently, this has a negative influence on food production and consumption.

Issues to be tackled

  • Improvement of reliability throughout supply chain

Examples of innovation

  • Establishment of safe food production lines
    - Fully automated food production lines
    - Food-defense technologies (monitoring, image analysis, aroma sensor and non-destructive testing)
  • Establishment of food traceability
    - Low-cost methods for product identification and authentication
    - Traceability systems that are easily adoptable by producers and intermediate distributers (enabled with sensors and IoT technology)
  • Efficient safety confirmation
    - Counterpart audit service efficiently conducted with IoT
    - Measures to prevent food fraud (inexpensive and speedy DNA testing, non-reusable stickers, etc.)
  • Development of a method to convey information on food safety to consumers in an accurate and consumer-friendly manner
    - Accurate information provision on food additives, residual pesticides and hygiene control

Innovation for efficient production and supply of food

Social problem

  • Disruption of farming by labor shortage

    Globalization and worldwide economic growth have prompted massive rural-urban migration towards major cities, resulting in labor shortages in the agricultural sector. This problem is even worse in Japan, mainly due to aging population. The productivity of the agricultural sector is lower than others especially for part-time farmers. Young people are not attracted to job opportunities in this sector.

Issues to be tackled

  • Industrialization of agriculture with enhanced productivity and higher added value

Examples of innovation

  • Revitalize the agricultural sector by enhancing productivity and increasing the number of agricultural workers (by promoting entry into this sector)
    - Develop production systems that utilize IoT, ICT, AI, robots, etc.
  • Develop a production volume adjustment system in line with market demand
    - Water-saving measures (precision-based agriculture)
    - A system for production volume adjustment that is linked to the market demand
  • Adding higher value to agriculture business
    - A system for combining agricultural product processing with service providers to enhance higher added values
    - Technologies for washing, sterilization and protection from insects creating less expensive and more nutritious precut or frozen vegetables

Innovation in the supply of protein

Social problem

  • Food procurement problem due to population increase

    - Due to explosive population growth in developing countries, it has become more difficult to secure a sufficient level of food production. In terms of protein, demand is expected to surpass the supply around 2030, causing a “Protein Crisis” which has already been recognized as a coming global issue.

    - In addition to declining levels of food self-sufficiency in Japan, competition with emerging economies for sources of protein will inevitably rise. For this reason, Japan may face difficulty in securing stable protein sources such as meat and fishery products in the future.

Issues to be tackled

  • Secure enough food supply to meet the rise in global demand

Examples of innovation

  • Stable food supply mainly in developing countries
    - Develop resilient plants against climate change
    - Donation service for school lunch in developing countries
  • Effective farming of marine products
    - Energy saving aquaculture technology, efficient feeding system
  • Development of new protein resources and food ingredients
    - Development of processed food using new protein resources, including edible insects
  • Efficient beef production methods
    - Cultured meat, efficient stockbreeding employing genome editing

Innovations for food supply chain and reducrion of food waste

Social problem

  • Escalating food loss and waste

    Today a vast amount of food is wasted throughout all stages of production, distribution and consumption. In developed countries, loss is observed more in retail and consumption, while more is found post-harvest during storage and processing in developing countries.

Issues to be tackled

  • To streamline food supply chain at the production, supply, and consumption stages, to reduce food waste and to generate effective use of it

Examples of innovation

  • Reduce waste at the processing, distribution, and consumption stages respectively
    - Enhance the food supply chain by: (1) promoting safe and secure food distribution and preservation, (2) preventing food loss by matching demand and supply, and (3) creating food banks as a platform for collaboration.
    - Consumable food waste can be recycled at food banks while non-consumable food waste can be recycled as feed, non-chemical fertilizers, or methane for energy.
  • Streamline handling, storage after the harvest, and processing
    - Development of inexpensive or a temperature-controlled supply chain, and monitoring system using sensors
    - Fishing instruments that do not harm fish. (In developed countries, 9-15% of caught fish are wasted because of damage in the fishing process. In developing countries, the rate is between 6-8%)
    - Cultivation near consumption

Innovation in the development of efficient means of water utilization

Social problem

  • Shortage of available water resources

    Water resources for drinking and agriculture are becoming scarce globally, due to a lack of infrastructure, change in rainfall patterns and growing demand.

Issues to be tackled

  • Development and improvement of water related infrastructure

Examples of innovation

  • Development for waste water treatment and recycling water from various sources
    - Plumbing products that allow highly efficient water use and water reuse
    - Inexpensive devices for filtration, desalination and purification
    - A device to harvest and provide potable water from air
    - Desalination of agricultural terrain where salt accumulation has progressed (developing efficient desalinate plants)
  • Build efficient water infrastructure
    - Decentralized facilities for waste water treatment and water storage
  • Reinforcement of water infrastructure business
    - Provide advice to enhance efficiency with big data analysis consisting of lists and management records of assets as well as future demand in the region
    - Visualization of availability of water resources in the region (quantity and quality of groundwater), system to generate new water and reuse waste water in accordance with the amount of water resource and demand

Past Winners

  • 2017 Part1 “Water & Food” Grand Award
    Supporting sustainable & high-profit agricultural business

    Plant Life Systems Co., Ltd.

    Plant Life Systems has developed a biologic artificial-intelligence system that helps in the production of high quality tomatoes. Sugar-rich tomatoes can be grown efficiently and at low cost even under hot and humid conditions. Through the use of ICT and these production-support systems, farmers can be better incorporated in the agricultural value chain and operate profitable business. The business model was developed by an automobile engineer with experience in self-driving and navigation systems.
    More [In Japanese]

  • 2017 Part1 “Water & Food” MRI Award
    A new breeding method for innovation in livestock business

    Setsuro Tech Co., Ltd.

    Setsuro Tech aims to improve the efficiency and quality of livestock business with its new genome editing techniques. By employing electroporation* in animal genome editing, Setsuro Tech has contributed to the mass production of meat and its improved efficiency.
    *A method to introduce certain materials into cells by applying high electric voltage.
    More [In Japanese]

Application Details

You can find out about the benefits for competition participants, the screening process and the schedule.

Other-themes

The following themes will also be considered for this program:

Business proposals may also be submitted for multifaceted social issues that involve several focus areas.

Note: business proposals focusing only on infrastructure technologies (e.g. AI and blockchains) will not be accepted.