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Thursday, Aug 11, 2022
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Environmental engineering shaking hands with the Earth

Interview - April 25, 2022

With 30 years’ expertise in manufacturing fermentation composting equipment and organic fertilizers, Chubu Ecotec has been perfecting its superior garbage and excreta processing technologies. We interviewed President Kazutoshi Takeuchi to learn more about composting’s key contribution to a recycling-based society, the features of Chubu Ecotec's renowned Compo series that manufactures organic fertilizer by processing organic waste, as well as the company's exciting ongoing projects including R&D into dry biofermentation.

 

CHUBU ECOTEC’S COMPOSTING TECHNOLOGY

While facing stiff regional competition, Japanese firms, both large and chusho kigyo, remain leaders in the agriculture industry, with Japan being the country with the most patents in this field, surpassing even the United States. As a fermentation composting equipment and organic fertilizer manufacturer, what do you believe are the competitive advantages of Japanese firms?

Products of Japanese companies are now more expensive than those of other countries, and price competition can destabilize the corporate management itself.

We believe that Japanese companies, including our company, are maintaining their competitive advantage by developing unique technologies that cannot be imitated by other countries, differentiating their products, and holding patents both domestically and internationally.

In particular, our fermentation and drying composting equipment is a technology that was perfected based on a unique Japanese concept, and in order to further develop its superiority and uniqueness, we are constantly striving to conduct research and development that will lead to competitive superiority by promoting development approaches from both the "hard technology" mechanical aspect and the "soft technology" fermentation technology aspect. We are committed to providing the highest quality products and services to our customers.

 

The world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, and the UN estimates that food production should double to respond to this growth. On the other hand, we are seeing strong opposition to the use of agrochemicals due to health concerns. How can we ensure that agricultural yields increase to the level needed to feed an ever-growing population while guaranteeing consumers’ safety?

One of the most inexpensive and environmentally friendly ways to contribute to a recycling society we recommend is composting, where the high-quality compost produced is returned to the soil to be utilized by crops.

We believe that it is the "natural flow" and ideal for the above-ground ecosystem to use the soil to support the growth of plants, which are the producers, and the lives of animals, which are the consumers, and soil microorganisms, which are the decomposers. By maintaining the food chain and material cycle centered on the soil, the circulation (water, air, nutrients, etc.) necessary for the survival of living organisms is maintained.

Looking back in history, from the Kamakura period (1185-1333) to the Meiji period (1716-1912), for about 200 years, the use of grass and tree ash from burning fields, cut grass and tree branches, as well as leaves from the mountains and fields, and the plowing of manure into fields as fertilizer to support crop production was widely recognized for its effectiveness. However, in modern times, piling up or digging in the field leads to soil, water, and air pollution, so there is a need for hygienic and safe compost that kills pathogens and weed seeds by the heat of aerobic fermentation, which is a composting technique.

One of the most famous cases of the harmful effects of chemical fertilizers and pesticides was the “Blue Baby” incident in the United States. I remember that there was a case in which a baby who drank breast milk from a mother who ate vegetables containing high nitrate-nitrogen or drank milk from a cow who ate grass containing high nitrate-nitrogen, developed methemoglobinemia, resulting in oxygen deprivation and turning the face of the baby blue.

In any case, when using organic or chemical fertilizers or pesticides, it is advisable to design and plan fertilizer application according to the soil and crop, and to avoid over-fertilization.

In Japan, there are still areas where sewage systems are not yet in place. In promoting the development of sewage systems, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is taking the lead in seeking ways to safely recycle and reuse sewage sludge; its proper handling and processing is important. There are two approaches: one is to use the sewage sludge (biomass) for power generation using a boiler or a generator, and the other is to use it as a fermented fertilizer, in which fermentation facilities employ two methods. One is anaerobic fermentation, which generates methane by keeping the environment at low temperatures without oxygen or sunlight. However, the low temperatures leave behind miscellaneous bacteria, including harmful ones. The other method of fermentation is the dry-bio method, which uses sunlight and oxygen. Organic materials such as sewage sludge, garbage, and animal waste are fermented at high temperatures of 70-80℃ to kill harmful bacteria. The result is an organic fertilizer that is more environmentally friendly and safe for food production.


Chubu Ecotec’s Smart Compost Stem


Composting and fermentation technologies play a vital role in the circular economy. Can you tell us how you expect the market for fermentation composting equipment to evolve, also considering increasing environmental concerns?

In addition to our own development research, we have been collaborating for many years with a research institute of the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on dry biofermentation. We are trying to expand the unique Japanese technology and concepts developed here to the global market, especially in Southeast Asia. Our fermentation and drying system is very efficient for a society aiming for carbon neutrality, but we still need to overcome the challenge of adapting it to the local environment in order to promote global development.

 

Global warming is now a major issue in the world, and ethanol produced by fermenting biomass such as sugarcane, corn, and wood is being discussed as "bioethanol" under the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions. Other organic resources such as straw, rice husks, livestock manure, sewage sludge, and waste cooking oil are also attracting attention as other energy resources, and fuels produced from such biomass are being used as biofuels in some places. However, in my opinion, in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, starchy raw materials such as corn, sweet potatoes, wheat, and tapioca, which are important food for humans and animals, and sugary raw materials such as sugar cane and sugar beets have been used as energy production. It is tempting to ask, "Is that really the way to go?” One company is making biomass by reusing food scraps, sludge, and other organic materials that are considered unnecessary. Our company is also doing research and development on biomass, although with different equipment. Japan's mottainai (an expression used to indicate that something is being discarded needlessly) is becoming a powerful tool for realizing a carbon neutral society.




What are the advantages of your dry fermentation system?

Aerobic fermentation requires water, oxygen, and appropriate temperature. Under these conditions, heat is generated as the microorganisms decompose the macromolecular substances in the raw materials, causing the water to evaporate and reducing its moisture content.

In addition, the heat of fermentation produced by the microorganisms can reach 70-80°C, which kills pathogenic bacteria and weed seeds, resulting in safe organic fertilizers.

Aerobic Fermentation System is a natural and organic waste fermentation technology that can produce useful products for agriculture.

Organic materials such as fresh livestock manure, food scraps, and sewer sludge are collected for aerobic fermentation. The freshness of the collected organic waste greatly affects the fermentation process and the quality of the fertilizer produced.

What follows are the aerobic fermentation conditions and the contents of the finished fertilizer.

So what is necessary for a good fermentation state?

(1) Nutrients: BOD value of several tens of thousands mg/L or more required (3, C/N ratio of 40 or less)

(2) Moisture: 55-70% (3 Note: Sludge requires the addition of secondary materials to ensure aeration, depending on its properties)

(3) Air: Appropriate airflow rate for aeration system varies depending on the moisture content and air permeability of the material, but ranges from 50 to 300 L/m3/minute.

(4) PH: Neutral area (Note: Adjustment should be made by using return compost or other means)

(5) Fermentation temperature: The temperature of the mixture in the fermentation facility must be maintained at 65°C or higher for at least 48 hours.

Basic product compost quality requirements:

(a) Pathogenic bacteria and parasite eggs must be killed.

(b) Weed seeds should be inactivated.

(c) Maturation has progressed and there are no adverse effects on plants and other organisms.

(d) The standards of the Fertilizer Control Law must be satisfied.

(e) The organic matter has been allowed to mature and the soil improvement effect is high.

(f) Moisture content must be low.

(g) No bad odor.



Chubu Ecotec conducted a joint venture in China in the mid-2000s, then expanded to Thailand, Vietnam, and Germany through distributors and agents.  Moving forward, what is your strategy for international expansion?

For more than a decade, we have been importing semi-finished products manufactured on consignment in China back to Japan and supplying them as finished products in Japan at our plants here and will continue to do so in the future. In addition, fertilizer companies in China are researching and commercializing liquid fertilizers as a new commercial product in addition to organic solid fertilizers. We are developing business specializing in organic waste treatment in China in cooperation with machinery sales companies and fertilizer companies.

In Southeast Asia and the EU region, sales activities have been conducted online for the past two years due to COVID-19. However, we have received many inquiries through the internet, and once the pandemic situation improves, we will be active in earnest. In our overseas operations, our initial focus was on excrement treatment, but demand for treatment of sewage sludge and food waste is also increasing. We see potential for our business to grow in these areas. We will continue to look for countries interested in our fermentation and drying technology as well as other products.

Chubu Ecotech will contribute to society by supporting local communities and companies with its expertise in combining hardware technology (machines) and software technology (fermentation technology).



In the next two or three years, what are some of the key targets you would like to accomplish?

Our goal is to contribute to society with our uniqueness by realizing IoT of aerobic fermentation technology and stabilizing the market. We anticipate that the market for livestock waste treatment will be limited in the future, so we would like to work on the treatment of sewage sludge and food waste. In terms of the difficulty of the fermentation process, the treatment of manure and sewage sludge is a stable and predictable process, but as for food waste, there are variations in the type and amount, and it changes daily. We will try to work from the types of waste that are easy to process to the more difficult ones, in order.

 

Imagine we interview you again on your last day as president. What dreams would you like to have achieved by then?

We have been manufacturing fermentation and composting equipment as well as machinery for over 40 years since our founding. We still have much to accomplish in order to enhance and strengthen our equipment to meet the needs and demands of our current and potential customers. Since the supply of fertilizers produced by our equipment is greater than the demand in Japan, we export the surplus to Southeast Asia and other foreign countries. However, the effective use of organic fertilizers is still under research and needs to be determined.

Efforts to address environmental issues are never-ending because of human involvement. Human-centered thinking has wreaked havoc on the natural world and altered our living environment. We must seriously consider developing environmentally friendly technologies from a big picture perspective. As president, I will continue to pursue processes and products that benefit the environment.

COMPANY DATABASESee all Database >

SHIRAI TECH LIMITED

Manufacturing, Japan

KAWASAKI KIKO CO., LTD.

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LEADER DATABASESee all Database >

Yosuke Kawasaki

President
KAWASAKI KIKO CO., LTD.

Yasuhiro Tochimoto

President and CEO
Kawasaki Geological Engineering Co., Ltd.

NAOTO KOMATSU

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KOMATSU KAIHATSU Corp.

Toshikazu YAGUCHI

President
ATOX Co., Ltd.

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