Towing’s Soratan: Revolutionizing Soil and Tackling Global Farm Issues

In the dynamic realm of agriculture, soil cultivation remains a cornerstone process. Traditional methods such as plowing, tilling, and leveling are notoriously labor-intensive and time-consuming, often requiring up to three years to yield effective results. Moreover, the use of certain fertilizers can degrade soil health, leading to diminished crop productivity and heightened vulnerability to crop failures. However, a groundbreaking solution has emerged from an unexpected source, poised to revolutionize this age-old practice and address some of the world’s most pressing agricultural and environmental concerns.

Nagoya University spinout Towing has introduced Soratan, a microbial cultivation technology that promises to redefine soil formation. This innovative approach combines high-performance biochar and porous materials, drastically reducing the soil formation process from three years to just about a month. Soratan’s benefits extend far beyond mere speed; by continuously fertilizing the soil, it leads to higher yields and greater productivity while also enabling carbon sequestration, thus contributing to climate change mitigation.

“With Soratan, we can cultivate multiple bacteria simultaneously inside the biochar. This is what sets us apart and is protected by our intellectual properties,” explains Shogo Okisho, head of sales and business development at Towing. This unique capability to cultivate diverse bacterial species within biochar not only accelerates soil formation but also ensures the soil remains fertile and productive over time. The implications of Soratan for global agriculture are profound. By facilitating rapid and sustainable soil formation, this technology addresses two critical issues: meeting the ever-growing global food demands and combating environmental degradation. As Okisho elaborates, “Our soil cultivation technology can provide a response to climate problems such as carbon emissions. Since we use biochar, we can fix carbon in the ground rather than having it released into the atmosphere.”

Founded in 2020 by CEO Kohei Nishida, Towing’s journey began at Nagoya University’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Nishida’s vision was to translate academic research into practical solutions that could benefit society at large. The acquisition of a crucial patent for Soratan marked a significant milestone in this journey, providing the company with a strong foundation to build upon. Despite the promising potential of Soratan, Towing operates in a challenging landscape. The climate tech sector is burgeoning, with numerous startups vying to address pressing global issues. However, investment in agtech has seen a decline, influenced by tough market conditions, sinking valuations, and inflation. According to PwC, investment in agtech startups dropped from $17.8 billion in 2021 to $8 billion in 2022. Okisho acknowledges these challenges, stating, “It has not been difficult to talk to investors, but there are so many climate technology companies, it’s harder to get chosen by an investor.”

Nonetheless, Towing has successfully navigated these challenges, raising $7.7 million from Japanese venture firms, including Aichi Capital. These funds are crucial for the company’s plans for mass production and international expansion. “We have used our funding to support our plan for mass production of our products in Japan, and we are aiming to use the money to further expand overseas,” Okisho affirms. A key factor in Towing’s success has been its strategic partnerships with Japanese agricultural cooperatives. These cooperatives play a critical role in distributing Towing’s products to farmers, helping to bridge the gap between traditional practices and innovative solutions. “We have several business partners who are Japanese agricultural cooperatives who help us distribute our products to farmers in Japan,” Okisho explains. “When it comes to farming, it is hard to change the conventional ways and persuade farmers to use new products, but the exposure to these cooperatives further builds a bridge between farmers and our company because farmers seem to trust these corporations.”

Support from venture capital firms has also been instrumental in Towing’s growth. “Venture firms who invested in us from the legacy stage have really helped us in making the strategy on expanding in the domestic markets. They provided important help with regards to company strategy and further supported our research,” Okisho adds. The development of Soratan represents a significant advancement in sustainable agriculture. The ability to expedite soil formation and improve soil health addresses critical issues related to food production and environmental sustainability. By facilitating carbon sequestration, Towing’s technology aligns with broader climate change mitigation efforts, offering a holistic solution to multiple global challenges.

Looking ahead, Towing’s focus on mass production and international expansion will be key to its success. As the company scales its operations, it will need to navigate the complexities of entering new markets and establishing distribution channels. Building additional partnerships, both domestically and internationally, will be crucial for Towing’s growth and the broader adoption of its technology. Moreover, continued advancements in the technology itself could open new avenues for application. Refining Soratan to cater to different soil types and climates could enhance its versatility and appeal to a broader range of agricultural practices. This will require ongoing research and development, supported by sustained investment, to ensure Towing remains at the forefront of sustainable agricultural innovation.

Towing’s innovative approach to soil cultivation has the potential to revolutionize agriculture, addressing critical challenges related to food production and environmental sustainability. With strategic partnerships and continued investment, Towing is well-positioned to make a significant impact on the future of farming. By transforming the way soil is cultivated, Towing not only promises to enhance agricultural productivity but also contributes to the global fight against climate change, paving the way for a more sustainable and prosperous future.

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