December 15, 2004


Deep Seawater Business To Develop Local Economies

* This article is under copyright protection.

Manabu Akaike
Universal Design Intelligence Inc.

Deep seawater has many superior qualities including: low temperature, being about nine degrees cooler than surface seawater and varying little over the course of a year's seasonal changes on the surface; nutrient-rich, being loaded with the inorganic nutrient salts that are needed for the growth of sea vegetation; maturity, from having "ripened" under a water pressure of at least 30 over many years; and purity, in the biological, scientific and physical sense, being free from contamination by bacteria, chemical substances and suspended particles. For Japan and other coastal nations, deep seawater is an extremely useful and high potential local resource. Besides its utilization as an ingredient in food processing, it is a natural resource that holds great latent potential for commercial development including applications in farming, nurseries and cultivation making use of its mineral content and low temperature, energy related uses in salt-making, ice-making and thermal energy conversion, and environmental rehabilitation including creation of seaweed forests.

In 1999 the Aqua Farm research facility was built, where the distribution of deep seawater to marine product companies and to commercial enterprises, important results have been obtained in terms of attracting new users of the resource and inspiring product development and research by other businesses. In the eastern coastal region of Cape Muroto in Kochi Prefecture, the structure of the ocean floor is such that there is a steep drop from the outer edge of the continental shelf about two kilometers off the coast, so that deep seawater rises in an upwelling stream. The abundant fishing resources in the area were nursed into abundance by the nutrient salts of this deep seawater current.

While possessing such ideal natural conditions for a deep seawater collecting environment, since deep seawater also holds within the potential of leading to advances in existing local economies such as fishing and agriculture, the Muroto area has commenced promotion of research that uses deep seawater in diverse ways, is also acting to aid the start-up of new manufacturing business, and advancing indigenous production while attracting outside enterprises through its "Deep Seawater Town" branding program.

Development of Thalassotherapy Also Being Studied

Muroto City has long had ties to food manufacturers who utilize deep seawater. These makers have been successful in developing a large number of products that take advantage of seawater's good mineral balance and its tendencies to bring a mellow flavor to foods and to stimulate fermentation of microorganisms.

Specifically, sake brewers in Kochi have found that putting deep seawater into the fermentation water for Japanese sake rice wine has the effect of raising the strength of the alcohol and heightening the premium fragrance, so they use deep seawater for sake brewing. Deep seawater has also been developed for use in making tofu because of its ability to boost sweetness and water absorption, and in breadmaking because yeast action is increased so that bread rises better without the use of additives.

The Ako Kasei company has realized both a mineral water business and a salt-making business using deep seawater. Shu Uemura Cosmetics has had good results in developing and marketing face lotions and cosmetics using deep seawater for its rapid skin-absorption qualities, more than double that of ordinary water.

Muroto City and other agencies support marketing research and test research into the use of deep seawater, while sponsoring experimental research linked with local universities and hospitals into improving skin conditions like atopic dermatitis and boosting immunity, as well as working with farmers in agricultural application research groups.

Further, marketing research into the development of thalassotherapy facilities was carried out in 2000, so that in the near future, a non-recre-ational traditional German style medical thalassotherapy complex is planned.

For the future, Muroto is studying plans to position itself as the starting point for the Shikoku Sustainable Energy Island project, preparing the foundation for thermal energy conversion which utilizes the seawater temperature differential as well as wind energy.

Muroto sells desalinated deep seawater to the local population for 100 yen for two liters, working to develop respect and public relations for local industry. And though public policy efforts to build employment in the region till now have focused on bringing in new companies, today the area has positioned the deep seawater industry as an ecologically sound and sustainable way to achieve local development, and is studying the formulation of policies for starting up local industry and fostering development that are centered on the basic concept of benefiting the people's health and the environment.

Till now, the branding of localities and their products as well as efforts to entice outside corporate interests to the area have constituted the mainstream of local and regional development. But in the future, planning that is founded on a high quality and benevolent mission such as program-oriented development and the start-up of businesses on the cottage industry level, like that being adopted by Muroto City, will surely begin to raise its head in every area of Japan.

JAPAN CLOSE-UP, December 2002, published by PHP

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