The potential of Euglena as a new source of sustainability
Euglena Co., Ltd. is a Japanese biotech venture company that runs businesses in the field of Healthcare, Renewable Fuels, Social Business, AgriTech and Bioinformatics. As indicated by the company name, their business includes R&D and production of Euglena, a microalgae much like seaweed or kelp. They achieved the world’s first outdoor mass cultivation of edible Euglena in Ishigaki island, Okinawa, and from this and other similar microalgae the company produces food and cosmetics, and is also developing renewable fuel technologies.
Euglena is a primitive organism performing photosynthesis and moving around in search of light. It has both characteristics of animals and plants and thus it is biologically unique. As they grow through photosynthesis, they can be cultivated anywhere as long as there is water and CO₂. They are known to thrive even in environments with CO₂ concentrations about 1,000 times higher than in the atmosphere.
Mitsuru Izumo, the founder of Euglena Co., visited Bangladesh as a student in university. He was extremely shocked by the malnutrition problems he witnessed there. He says that it was then that he decided to take on this social problem through business development. From this start, he would go on to establish Euglena Co. in 2005.
Ishigaki Euglena, which Euglena Co. cultivates, contains 59 kinds of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and unsaturated fatty acids such as DHA and EPA. The rich nutrients in Ishigaki Euglena can be used to help some of the problems people face today, such as malnutrition, fatigue, and weakened immune systems.
The philosophy of Euglena Co. is “Sustainability First” and the company’s purpose is “Make People and the Earth Healthy.” Through its work, Euglena Co. aims to create a society in which individual happiness can coexist with that of others. In other words, they hope that the expansion of Euglena Co.’s business will have a direct impact in terms of the improvement of various social issues.
Since its establishment, Euglena Co. has worked on sustainability issues. In 2014, they started the “The Euglena GENKI Program” to distribute nutrient-rich Euglena cookies as part of school lunches to children in Bangladesh who are suffering from malnutrition. As of July 2022, over 14 million of the cookies has been distributed.
In addition, in December 2017 the company delivered 200,000 Euglena cookies with customized specifications to a Rohingya refugee camp in Myanmar that was struggling with an increasing number of people. Later during the COVID-19 lockdowns, the company distributed 400,000 of the Euglena cookies free of charge to slum residents who could not easily access food due to the shortages and rising prices.
In addition to The Euglena GENKI Program, Euglena Co. has also started its journey toward social business with its “Mung Bean Project”. Mung bean is a vitally important ingredient in dal soup, a widely consumed local food in Bangladesh, and is also the source of bean sprouts that are widely consumed in Japan. By working with local small-scale farmers for mung bean cultivation, Euglena Co, provided benefits for the farmers such as technical guidance and higher sales prices. This project aims to eradicate poverty and stabilize the food supply by providing Bangladeshi farmers with advanced Japanese agricultural techniques for mung bean cultivation and supplying high-quality mung beans in both countries.
The project has seen huge success. In 2018, it created approximately 8,000 employment opportunities small farmers, and in 2019 Euglena Co. became the first company in Japan to have a business tie-up with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). The project is not on a voluntary basis but as a business effort to produce profits and continuously invest to solve social problems. In 2022, Euglena Co. Signed a Business Partnership Agreement with WFP for second time.
In 2018, Euglena Co. constructed Japan’s first demonstration plant to manufacture renewable fuels under the brand name SUSTEO to facilitate the shift from fossil fuels for the realization of a sustainable society. The use of SUSTEO as a renewable diesel fuel began in 2020, and the first flight using SUSTEO as a SAF succeeded in 2021. SUSTEO is now used for land, sea and air transport. And In 2021, a Mazda competition vehicle fueled with SUSTEO (100 % renewable diesel fuel) completed the three-hour Super Taikyu Endurance race.