ICS 2014 class member Yusuke Takashashi (Yuuten) wins "Minister for the Environment Global Warming Prevention Activity Commendation" for his work with Ajinomoto Incorporated as project team leader.

Jan 9, 2015

1s-Yuuten Award of Minister for Environment.jpgThe Minister for the Environment Global Warming Prevention Activity Commendation that was awarded in 2014 to Yusuke Takashashi (Yuuten) promotes global warming counter measures. It has been presented every December since 1998 by the Ministry for the Environment to individuals or organizations that have made remarkable achievements in global warming prevention efforts.

Yuuten entered Hitotsubashi ICS in the Autumn of 2014 as a company-dispatched student from Ajinomoto Inc. Prior to entering our school, his work at the company on the "Kyushu Laboriously Worked Vegetables (九州力作野菜)" and "Kyushu Laboriously Worked Fruits(九州力作果物)" projects had been evaluated highly, and this led to this commendation.

Expressing his happiness at winning the award, and displaying great ambition for future projects, he made the following comments:

"I am truly happy that our cooperative group, which included Ajinomoto Inc., has been given this Award. When you look at all the affiliated companies and agricultural production corporations that were involved, approximately 30 companies are receiving this commendation. What we did is exactly the same as the CSV (Creating Shared Value) we study at Hitotsubashi ICS. With this award as an impetus, and using this brand's vegetables and fruit, I will continue working to enliven Kyushu agriculture more and more!"

Yuuten went on to talk about his motivation for entering Hitotsubashi ICS at a time when he was already so busy with such business operations.

"It's because, just as with the 'Kyushu Laboriously Worked Vegetables' and 'Kyushu Laboriously Worked Fruits' project, I wanted to become a person capable of open innovation. Open innovation is a method in which you combine the technologies or ideas of others, such as companies and universities, with those of your own company, in order to produce innovative business models, obtain innovative research results and further product development. The vision of ICS - 'Best of Two Worlds: to be the bridge between the East and the West, Large and Small, Global and Local, Old and New, Practice and Theory, Cooperation and Competition, Business and Society' - certainly links to open innovation. After entering ICS, I was confronted not only with the characteristic compulsory subjects, but also an environment in which everyone speaks English, the common language of the global economy, international classmates and a continuous flow of group work that would surprise you. This is a place where open innovation is put into practice every day. I've only been a student here for 3 months, but after studying in this environment for 1 year, I anticipate that I will have been able to change myself dramatically."

Yuuten, congratulations on winning this award!

In addition, we asked Yuuten about his career so far and the award-winning project in greater detail.

Q: What kind of research were you involved in during your college years?
I majored in biotechnology. Due to the my field of work changing to agriculture, last year I enrolled in graduate school to study Agricultural Management Technology (to obtain an agriculture business management license) for 1 year.

Q: Please tell us about your career history at Ajinomoto Inc.
I joined the company in 2000 and began working at the company's fermentation technology research laboratory in Kawasaki City, doing basic research for 6 years. To make amino acids, molasses is made from sugarcane or sugar beet, then fermentative bacteria is added; my job was to research ways to make fermentation occur as efficiently and productively as possible.
In 2006 I moved to Saga City in Kyushu (the southernmost of the four main islands of Japan) where I continued working as a technician at Ajinomoto's bio-industrialization center.. I was in charge of taking new technologies from the laboratory and introducing them to factories for actual use. It's what we call "scaling up".
In 2011, I began working at our Kyushu plant co-located with the bio-industrialization center, where I took byproducts from our factory and conducted business development with them freely. The Kyushu plant has the world's largest amino acid fermentation facility and manufactures amino acids used as raw material in the low calorie sweetener aspartame, among other products.

Q: What kind of business affairs were you in charge of before entering Hitotsubashi ICS?
I was in charge of new business development using fermentation byproduct biomass, which is a byproduct created via the amino acid fermentation process. My mission was to turn our factory's 4,000 - 8,000 tons of yearly biomass into reusable resources at low cost.

Q: Please tell us the details of the activities that led to winning this award.
On 3 December, the 2014 Minister for the Environment Global Warming Prevention Activity Commendation, backed by the Minister for the Environment, was awarded for the "Kyushu Laboriously Worked Vegetables" and "Kyushu Laboriously Worked Fruits" projects to a cooperative body, which included Ajinomoto Inc. Ajinomoto Inc.'s Kyushu plant has hitherto used its biomass as fertilizer;, but because it is like clumps of moist clay, we used to burn oil in order to dry it. Now, however, we mix the biomass with compost and utilize the heat from the compost's fermentation to dry the biomass. We were evaluated highly for doing this, as it is estimated that it could cut fuel oil use by 600 kiloliters and CO2 emissions by 2,000 tons per year.
Compost is organic matter, such as cow dung, which is decomposed by microbes. The decomposition process generates heat at around 80°C; using this heat to dry the fermentative biomass means we no longer require the oil. As an added bonus, we found that by using compost, the sugar content and free amino acids of vegetables increased, leading to better tasting crops. By cooperating with AEON Kyushu Inc.(retailer), compost manufacturers, and AEON Kyushu Inc. contract farmers, we were able to create an agricultural value chain (the ring of laboriousness that enlivens Kyushu agriculture) that makes use of the compost mixed with fermentative byproduct biomass. As a result, producers were able to increase their revenue, AEON Kyushu Inc. was able to secure a steady supply of delicious agricultural produce; and producers, distributer, and customers were each able to realize "maximization of value." Of course our company can reduce its fuel oil costs as well. It is a project in which all parties involved benefit, including the customer. With "we will enliven Kyushu's agriculture" as our motto, we worked hard together throughout the project.

Q: In those business affairs, what types of challenges did you face? Please tell us about your sense of achievement as well.
The first year of our efforts to utilize the fermented byproduct biomass was the toughest. Not knowing what to do, I conjured up various hypotheses simultaneously and worked frantically. It was literally chaos. After two years, a hypothesis was selected and it led to the "Kyushu Laboriously Worked Vegetables" and "Kyushu Laboriously Worked fruits" project. By year three we got our first results. Since agriculture processes take a long time, I had to deal with the pain of waiting for much longer than I would have liked, so when we achieved our goal, the joy I felt was unforgettable.
However, if I had already known the things I am studying now at ICS, I believe I could have advanced the project much faster. For example, in ICS's signature curriculum, knowledge management, I learnt a framework called the "SECI model." This framework was perfectly in line with the methods used in our project; so much so that when I first heard about it in class I threw my head back in astonishment. If I had been aware of the SECI model before the project, I believe the chaos of the first year of the project could have been avoided, and I could have accelerated the project. For this reason, I will continue to earnestly absorb knowledge at ICS so as to be able to apply it to all my future projects.
Lastly, if you ever see "Kyushu Laboriously Worked Vegetables" and "Kyushu Laboriously Worked Fruits" in the store, please give them a try! And of course, come to ICS!

Yusuke Takahashi
Born 1976, in Takehara City, Hiroshima Prefecture. Completed graduate school at Tokyo Institute of Technology, majoring in biotechnology. Holder of Agricultural business management license (Saga University) and small and medium-sized enterprises consultant license. Employee of Agribusiness group at the Ajinomoto Inc. Kyushu Plant (current). Presently studying for an MBA at Hitotsubashi ICS. Hobbies include American football (Saga University American football club director) and town revitalization ("Saga is Sicilian rice de dotcom" founder Sicilian Prince http://sicilianrice.com/). Motto: "now or never."