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Yamaha Motor Co. has developed a photosynthesis technology capable of mass-producing a type of rare phytoplankton used in fish farming.

Yamaha officials said Thursday the technology is also applicable to a wide range of business fields such as food supplements, medicine and cosmetics, and the company plans to branch into bio-business in a big way based on the technology.

The company, a major manufacturer of motorcycles and outboard motors, plans to build a large bio-reactor laboratory near its head office in Iwata, Shizuoka Prefecture, later this year and hopes to put the technology into commercial use as early as possible.

Yamaha President Toru Hasegawa says he is convinced the technology will become a business pillar that Yamaha officials say could lead to an annual turnover of 20 billion yen.

The phytoplankton being tapped by Yamaha engineers is known as chaetoceros gracilis, a rectangular, diatomacenous algae measuring less than one-100th of a millimeter. The algae are used to feed the larvae of oysters, scallops and prawns but are rarely found in the wild.

Yamaha succeeded in February 2002 in mass-cultivating the algae and has started selling it on a trial basis to health food company Nisshin Oillio Group Ltd.

To raise the efficiency of the photosynthesis process, it is essential to control the repetition of dark-and-bright cycles, Yamaha officials say.

Yamaha combined two of its key technologies to facilitate the process: water environment technology honed through the development of water purification equipment, and technology used in its engines.

The company says its photosynthesis device is capable of fixating carbon dioxide 10 times faster than tropical forests.

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