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Japan’s Chitose ramping up spirulina capacity abroad

January 22, 2016
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

IHI Corporation, Kobe University, and Chitose Laboratory Corporation have succeeded in stably cultivating algae in a 1,500 square meter open pond in Kagoshima, Kagoshima, Japan.

IHI Corporation, Kobe University, and Chitose Laboratory Corporation have succeeded in stably cultivating algae in a 1,500 square meter open pond in Kagoshima, Kagoshima, Japan.

Akane Okutsu writes for asia.nikkei.com that Japanese bioventure Chitose Laboratory is taking its spirulina business overseas, with plans to quintuple capacity for the edible blue-green algae by setting up American and Singaporean production bases.

Chitose was launched in 2002 to develop commercial applications for algae and other microorganisms. The company is working with Japanese heavy machinery manufacturer IHI to mass-produce algae as a resource for biofuel.

Chitose Chief Executive Officer and Founder Tomohiro Fujita

Chitose Chief Executive Officer and Founder Tomohiro Fujita

The company’s business with spirulina as a dietary supplement is now a domestic concern, relatively small in scale compared with foreign plans. In Japan, Chitose operates a Shizuoka Prefecture factory that can make 60 tons of dietary spirulina a year. The company sells raw spirulina in 50-gram vacuum packages for 280 yen ($2.31) online and in places like coffee shops, moving some 5,000 to 10,000 packages a month domestically. It aims to quintuple Japanese sales to an annual 150 million yen by promoting the product on social media.

For the advance abroad, the company plans to invest 1 billion yen ($8.55 million US) to build two factories slated to be up and running in fiscal 2017 and lift total production capacity to 310 tons a year. The sites will be somewhere in Singapore and on the U.S. West Coast, where the weather is warm.

In addition to domestic sales, Chitose intends to market the spirulina to health-conscious consumers in these regional markets, aiming to generate foreign sales of 1 billion yen a year.

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