In recent years, global environmental problems such as global warming, ocean pollution, and deforestation have become increasingly serious year by year. A new economic system, the “circular economy,” is attracting attention as a solution to these problems.

We must break away from the system of mass production, mass consumption, and mass disposal that we have taken for granted in the past, and consider what has been considered waste as a resource and use it as such to recycle resources. In a society that is becoming increasingly conscious of sustainable consumption, there is a need to create a recycling-oriented system.

Against this backdrop, in July 2022, Nikko Company, a long-established ceramics manufacturer, realized full-scale vegetable cultivation using “BONEARTH“, a fertilizer created from discarded tableware. The first harvested corn was sold at the general store “Lost and Found” from July 29, 2022 for a limited time. On the first day of sales, a live cooking show by popular chef Yukiya Terai was also streamed.

In this column, we would like to share with you the process of BONEARTH development and corn cultivation leading up to its sale, as well as the recipes streamed on Cooking Live.

Table of Contents

What is “BONEARTH” born from discarded tableware?

“BONEARTH” is the world’s first fertilizer made from recycled tableware. Nikko Company started the development of BONEARTH after noticing that “tricalcium phosphate”, which is contained in approximately 50% of the raw materials of the bone china tableware (NIKKO FINE BONE CHINA) offered by the company, is effective as a fertilizer. On February 10, 2022, the company received certification as a fertilizer from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and began selling the product in April of the same year.

Much of the phosphoric acid currently used in Japan is imported from overseas, and fertilizer prices have risen dramatically due to soaring import prices. BONEARTH is a sustainable fertilizer that utilizes chipped and cracked tableware that would otherwise have to be disposed of as industrial waste as a phosphate fertilizer. By recycling waste tableware as a resource in Japan, it is expected to reduce landfill waste and CO2 emissions from the import and transportation of phosphorus. Furthermore, compared to existing fertilizers, it is less likely to leak into the environment, so there is no risk of environmental impact.

Inspiration for the development of BONEARTH
〜Nikko’s goal of a Circular Economy〜

Founded in 1908 in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture, Nikko Company has been engaged in the production of high-quality ceramics for over 100 years. The tableware, carefully crafted one by one by artisans, shows its true value only when served with delicious food.

In recent years, however, the future of food has been endangered by various environmental disasters, such as the climate crisis, soil contamination, and ocean pollution caused by plastics. If we fail to protect the abundance of food, the tableware that colors that food will lose its place in the world. Against this backdrop, the company has been promoting initiatives in line with the principles of the “circular economy“, centered on its ceramics business, under the theme of “Designing a Circular Future, 100 Years from Now”.

Today, there is a need to shift from mass production, mass consumption, and mass disposal to a sustainable, recycling society, The development of BONEARTH started from the desire of an employee who wondered if it could be used in a new way without being discarded after its role as tableware had been completed.

Corn cultivation at Nakamoto Farm

Since its launch, BONEARTH has been featured in various media such as TV, newspapers, and magazines, and finally in May, “Nakamoto Farm” in Hakusan City, Ishikawa Prefecture, started growing corn using BONEARTH. The variety grown is “Gold Rush”. It is characterized by its soft kernel skin, refreshing sweetness, and good texture.

We would like to follow the process of growing and harvesting this “BONEARTH corn”.

(Left) May 19: Spraying / (Right) May 20: Planting

Cultivation began on May 19, 2022 with the spraying of BONEARTH. Nakamoto Farm’s fields cover 11 hectares, and 300,000 of corn alone are harvested each year. This amount is said to account for most of the corn sold in supermarkets in Ishikawa Prefecture. This time, 120 kg of BONEARTH was sprayed over an area of about 2,900 square meters of that vast field, which was originally a paddy field. The next day, seedlings were planted. According to Hiroyuki Nakamoto, president of the farm, planting seedlings by hand is more labor-intensive than planting seeds with an agricultural machine, but it also yields corn of a more uniform size than planting seeds, and the harvest rate is higher.

(left) May 26 / (right) June 22

On June 22, about a month after planting, the seedlings grew quickly and significantly. In growing corn, it is important not to overwater, and it does not matter if the topsoil in the field is completely dry.

(left) July 6: pollination in progress / (right) July 27: harvest

On July 6, the ear emerges. From these ears, pollen falls down and attaches to the pistils, causing pollination and producing fruit. Finally, on July 27, about 2 months after the seedlings were planted, about 8,000 “BONEARTH corn” were harvested. The harvested corn was shipped from Nakamoto Farm and sold in Ishikawa Prefecture.

In addition, Nikko Company distributed BONEARTH corn internally to all of its approximately 600 employees throughout Japan. Employees commented that “the corn was the sweetest corn they had ever eaten”, that “it was delicious with a crisp texture”, and that “they were happy to see the tableware they were making being reborn”.

“Summer Feast Cooking” Live

In addition, about 200 of the harvested BONEARTH corn was sold at the LOST AND FOUND TOKYO STORE, a general store operated by Nikko Company, for a limited three-day period from July 29 to 31, 2022.

On the first day of sales, a cooking live broadcast by popular chef Yukiya Terai attracted more than 5,000 viewers.

Cooking Live introduced two ethnic menus that are perfect for the hot summer months, taking advantage of the characteristics of the BONEARTH corn variety, Gold Rush. Both dishes can be easily prepared in about 15 minutes, and recipes for these dishes are available on the LOST AND FOUND website.

Corn and edamame with herbs and ethnic charzo

Corn dumplings in spicy vermicelli soup

The menu is served on fine bone china tableware, the raw material of BONEARTH. The discarded Nikko tableware becomes fertilizer, which is used to grow crops, and the harvested crops are cooked as ingredients and returned to the Nikko tableware. This series of initiatives is an embodiment of the recycling-oriented society that Nikko Company is aiming for.

Editor’s Note

The conventional linear business model of mass production, mass consumption, and mass disposal is reaching its limits. Nikko Company is working to realize a more sustainable, recycling-oriented business throughout the entire value chain of “ceramics” and “food”. We plan to continue our research on the effectiveness and utilization of BONEARTH with experts and partners.

On the other hand, the company believes that its own efforts alone are insufficient to realize a recycling-oriented business model for the entire supply chain. At a time when the future of the food supply surrounding us is in jeopardy, the entire industry will be transformed if the food-related industries, including restaurants, hotels, and producers who wish to continue to provide abundant food, unite in their efforts to recycle tableware.

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Daily updates on BONEARTH are available in the note ” BONEARTH LABORATORY“.

[Reference Site] NIKKO sells a limited amount of corn grown with “BONEARTH®”, the world’s first fertilizer created from discarded tableware! Cooking live broadcast by Mr. Yukiya Terai is also available!
[Reference Site] Ministry of the Environment: White Paper on the Environment, White Paper on a Recycling-Oriented Society, White Paper on Biodiversity
[Reference site] Yukiya Terai’s Summer Feast Cooking Live Report

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