A joint venture jointly founded by Research Institute of Innovative Technology for theEarth (RITE) and the University of Tokyo Edge Capital will start to produce chemical raw materials from rice straws. The joint venture company, Green EarthTechnology, has established a cultural method that can synthesize only the target substance efficiently, while reducing the consumption of energy necessary for the growth of bacteria. Using the newly developed technology, it will be possible to produce phenol resins and amino acid at one dollar (about 77 yen) per kilogram. If the oil price maintains the current level of more than 80 dollars per barrel, chemical raw materials produced using the new established cultured method will have enough competitive edge in terms of production cost.
RITE’s new technology is based on the gene recombination of corynebacteriaceae in soil. This technology makes it possible to produce various kinds of chemical raw materials from plant fibers. Corynebacteriaceae resolves plant fibers and synthesizes the target substance using the resultant sugar. A recombinant bacterium is used for the synthesis of electronic and auto parts, another recombinant bacterium is useful for the synthesis of lactic acid that is a raw material of biodegradable resins, and another recombinant bacterium is effective for the synthesis of valine that is amino acid for animal consumption. The joint venture will build a production facility with an annual production capacity between 2,000-3,000 tons with an investment of 3 billion yen coming summer. Private companies including Teijin, Sumitomo Bakelite, and Idemitsu Kosan will participate in the research on biodegradable resins, electronics parts, and various petrochemical raw materials, respectively. It is estimated that the market to produce chemical raw materials from plants grow to more than 100 billion dollars in 2020, the same market size of biofuel.