Mass plant propagation technology
Cultivate, expand and procure sustainable agricultural raw materials
Having been long using plants such as hops and barley as ingredients for beer, the Kirin Group’s start of research efforts on related technology goes back to the 1980s and our original technology established for mass propagation of plants is currently attracting growing attention from various fields as a technology that can resolve social issues. Our unparalleled mass plant propagation technology is original and globally unprecedented in that it consists of four elemental technologies: Stem propagation technique (organ culture method), sprout propagation technique (PPR method), embryo propagation technique (somatic embryo method), and potato propagation technique (micro tuber method).
Plant propagation is normally performed using seeds, cuttage, etc., but the cultivation period is limited and the growth rate is considerably low depending on the plant. However, Kirin’s mass propagation technology that we developed through our own research makes it possible to significantly increase the number of quality plants with the same characteristics as the parent plant regardless of the season.
Kirin’s scenario analyses based on TCFD recommendations conducted in 2018 and 2019 show that climate change has a significant impact on yields of many agricultural products used as raw materials. Mass plant propagation technology is also useful for the mass propagation of new varieties, endangered species and useful plants, as well as for mass propagation aimed at promoting the spread of new varieties that have been developed in response to environmental changes. At one time, our technology faced the risk of elimination due to the withdrawal from the agribio business, but it is now positioned as one of Kirin's core research areas.
Bag-type culture vessel technology
Kirin's mass plant propagation technology is not limited to use in research and development, but has been established as a technology that can be used in practical applications. This is our bag-type culture vessel system. Stainless steel and glass tanks are not suitable for the practical production of plant seedlings because they have a high risk of microbial contamination on top of being very expensive. The resin film bag-type culture vessel system developed by Kirin offers the advantages of high production and operational efficiency, lightweight, low cost, high operational safety, and flexibility in adjusting production size. In addition, a solution containing nutrients necessary for plant growth is aerated inside a small bag to allow plants to grow, making it easier to use water more effectively than in soil cultivation and to create a virus/pathogen-free environment. The bag-type culture vessel system was developed from research on the micro tuber method for potato propagation and has been enhanced for use in other propagation technologies.
For two years from 2014, the Kirin Central Research Institute was involved in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries project, “Dramatic Improvement of Production of Seeds and Seedlings of Bursaphelenchus Xylophilus - Resistant Black Pine for Regeneration of Coastal Forests in the Tohoku Region.”* We remain engaged in the regeneration of the coastal protection forests that suffered devastating damage from the tsunami in 2011. In 2017, black pine seedlings produced using technology developed by the Kirin Central Research Institute were planted in the grounds of the Kirin Brewery Sendai Plant on a trial basis. In 2018, the Institute conducted a study of those seedlings together with the students of Miyagi Prefecture Shibata Nourin High School, who assisted with the development. The Institute also participated, together with the Kirin Brewery Sendai Plant, in tree-planting activities organized by Miyagi Mori-no-Kai, conducting new trial plantings in disasteraffected coastal areas of Higashi-Matsushima.
The Kirin Central Research Institute will continue its research and development with the aim of contributing to the early regeneration of the coastal protection forests.
- Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Industry/Food Industry Science and Technology Research Promotion Project (lead institution: Forest Tree Breeding Center, Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, Forest Research and Management Organization)
Contribution to the lunar farm
The Kirin Central Research Institute took part in the lunar surface base project led by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology launched in 2017, which included industry-academia collaboration research on a pest free farm system and emergency backup system using bag-type culture vessel technology.
Experiments were conducted to examine the growth potential of lettuce plants as a source of vitamin C, potato seed potatoes as a source of carbohydrate, and soybean seedlings as a source of protein in a low-pressure environment. In addition, nutrient composition and material balance evaluations were conducted. As a result, growth patterns similar to those under atmospheric pressure on the earth could be reproduced.
We plan to continue developing this technology through industryacademia collaboration, and make proposals to JAXA and other space agencies on the lunar surface farm where the research is currently conducted.