Incorporating Wellness into Growth

Solving social issues related to people’s wellness (healthy living) is the mission of the Air Water Group and an important area for growth.

As the super-aging society faces social issues such as the shortage of hospitals, working environment of healthcare professionals, and gap between average life and healthy life expectancy, our Group will contribute to extend healthy life expectancy not only through acute care but also through the healthcare business for prevention, pre-symptomatic diseases, and rehabilitation outside hospitals.

When it comes to “food,” the basis for our healthy and fulfilling life, we see the long-term shortages given the growing population and climate change worldwide. In this context, we are committed to improving food self-sufficiency through our business such as “fruit and vegetable distribution and processing platform” and “landbased aquaculture platform.”

Case 1. Enhance the “fruit and vegetable distribution and processing platform”

Our agribusiness (agriculture & processing) is based in Hokkaido, the largest producer of agricultural products in Japan. Based on our strong ties with growers through contract cultivation and procurement of raw vegetable materials, we have developed a system to process agricultural products into the required form and supply them in a timely manner, thereby opening up new sales channels. We are particularly reinforcing our “fruit and vegetable distribution and processing platform” by leveraging our logistics capabilities to link production areas with consumption areas and our technologies to preserve freshness with industrial gases.

Meanwhile, as food security and self-sufficiency become social issues, stable supply is getting more important in the domestic fruit and vegetable market due to decreasing farmers and more frequent abnormal weather.

With this context, in February 2023, we have started partnering with VEGETECH Co., a fruit & veg trading company engaged in processing and intermediate wholesaling, and DELICA FOODS HOLDINGS CO., which sells whole/cut vegetables for commercial use. We are working to stably supply Hokkaido vegetables from our Group to the both companies, build raw material storage bases in preparation for the “2024 problem” in logistics, and expand new production areas to diversify production area risks.

In October 2023, we acquired 51% of the shares of Marushin Seika Co. which is the largest middle wholesaler in the Fukuoka City Central Wholesale Market and has a wide sales channel to mass merchandisers, food manufacturers, and restaurants, and thus became our group company. We are expanding our fruit & vegetable network in Kyushu, which can complement the off-season of Hokkaido, and making a stable supply by decentralizing production areas. We will also collaborate with the Kumamoto Low Temperature Logistics Center, starting in February 2024.

Such collaboration with industry giants strengthens our procurement network and enhances the fruit and vegetable platform that has a value chain and logistics network from processing to sales. We are committed to contributing to the development of sustainable domestic agriculture, connecting production areas with dining tables, creating a rich food culture in response to the times, and contributing to people’s wellness.

Case 2. Industrialize onshore aquaculture

With declining natural fish catches and an aging and decreasing number of fishermen, sea-based aquaculture, the mainstay of aquaculture, is facing limitations in increasing production, as well as environmental problems such as the accumulation of uneaten feed on the seafloor, which leads to water pollution.

To address these social issues, our Group started onshore salmon farming from May 2023 in Higashikagura Town, Hokkaido, under a breeding environment suitable for cold climates. We offer the “onshore aquaculture platform,” an all-in-one package from plant design to operation and maintenance, taking advantage of the Group’s unique strengths in technologies such as remote monitoring and freshness maintenance, in addition to oxygen, energy, and artificial seawater, which are essential for aquaculture.

At the “Nature’s Blessing Farm Matsumoto” (Matsumoto, Nagano Pref.; scheduled to open in FY2024), we will begin test cultivation of salmon and whiteleg shrimp in a semi-enclosed smart onshore aquaculture plant that uses well water, and will develop ancillary equipment and consumables to increase efficiency. This small-scaled, semi-closed cycle plant of smart onshore aquaculture can save initial investment and be used across Japan as a model for local production for local consumption. By industrializing the onshore aquaculture, we are looking to provide people with easy access to delicious fish and contribute to food self-sufficiency.

Building an onshore aquaculture platform

Case 3. Extend healthy life span through pulp regeneration

Oral health has received particular attention in recent years because of its close connection to physical health. One of the keys to a long and healthy life is to keep “own teeth” as long as possible. Aeras Bio Inc. in our Group commercialized pulp regeneration therapy first in the world in 2020, which is a new treatment for teeth that have lost their pulp due to severe decay and injury. Partnering with RD Dental Clinic (by Medical Corporation Kenko Mirai), the treatment is now available across Japan. Furthermore, Aeras Bio has developed a banking system to collect, culture, preserve, and transport dental pulp stem cells from unused teeth in collaboration with dental clinics nationwide. Cultured stem cells are expected to be used not only for pulp regeneration therapy, but also for future regenerative therapy to restore organs and tissues that have lost function due to disease or injury. (As of November 2023, there are 17 clinics in Japan that offer pulp regeneration therapy and 182 partner clinics that perform extractions for pulp stem cell banking.)

In June 2023, a treatment that regenerates even the dentin, which surrounds and protects the pulp, was put to use. Covering the regenerated pulp with stronger dentin is expected to strengthen the entire tooth, seal gaps, and prevent reinfection.

In addition, clinical research is underway with the aim of commercializing around 2027 the “other family pulp regenerative therapy” using cells from family members within the second degree of kinship. Since it is possible to transplant cells taken from one unwanted tooth into many people, further research is ongoing to cultivate quality cells in large quantities. In this way, our Group is establishing a new dental practice for oral health and aiming to contribute to the wellness (healthy living) of more people.

TOPICS A facility that models the society we aim for, in both Global Environment and Wellness.
“Nature’s Blessing Farm Matsumoto”

In October 2022, we started construction of a facility to develop a resource-recycling model that enables local production for local consumption of energy, named “Nature’s Blessing Farm Matsumoto” in Nagano Prefecture, which is planned to complete in 2024. The facility consists of a “biomass gasification & power generation plant,” a “methane fermentation plant,” a “smart onshore aquaculture plant,” and a “smart agricultural house.” They utilize the unused biomass resources generated in the region to produce gas and electricity, and use the heat and carbon dioxide gas produced in the process for onshore aquaculture and agriculture. This model facility symbolizes the society we aim for in terms of both Global Environment and Wellness. In the biomass gasification & power generation, we use bamboo and pruned branches, which tends to become waste in the region, as fuel for power generation. It adopts the first biomass gasifier in Japan that does not generate tar. The plant is going to accept all types of unused wood, including forest residues and thinned wood, as well as general wood waste generated in Matsumoto City. In the methane fermentation, we will collect local food waste, turn it into biogas, and use it for energy and power generation. The residue is then used as fertilizer without waste. Aquaculture and agricultural wastes are also reused as raw materials for biomass gasification power generation and methane fermentation.

In the onshore aquaculture that uses artificial seawater, we will cultivate salmon and whiteleg shrimp. In the agricultural house, we will work on optimizing the growing environment for tomatoes, strawberries, etc., by promoting photosynthesis with carbon dioxide gas and utilizing a system of programming the cultivation methods of skilled farmers.

In the future, we look to expand the verified resource-recycling model to other regions in a form that matches local issues, along with our products such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, and artificial seawater, which are essential for onshore aquaculture and agriculture. We are further working to realize and balance a decarbonized society, people’s healthy lifestyles, and our business expansion.

Biomass gasification & power generation facility

Onshore aquaculture plant