Brunei-Japan microalgal biotechnology company Taberumo Biofarm (TBMB) is looking to collaborate with Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) on possible joint research ventures with university academic members along with possible career opportunities for students.

TBMB is a local subsidiary of Japanese biotech company Taberumo Corporation and is a leading company in the large-scale cultivation of the edible microalgae spirulina using PhotoBioReactor (PBR) system.

The packaging of the frozen raw spirulina. Image: Azrina Zin

Recently, members of UBD’s Faculty of Science and Faculty of Integrated Technologies visited the spirulina factory located at the Darussalam Enterprise Bio-Innovation Corridor Industrial Park in Kg Tungku-Rimba where they visited TBMB’s office and facilities on-site and discussed about the joint-venture’s business and organisational structure and products.

“During this session, the possibility of internship placements for UBD students were discussed, along with possible career opportunities for UBD students, which was received positively by the TBMB team,” the company said in a statement.

UBD and TBMB staff seen at the Taberumo factory. Image: Azrina Zin

“Such a relationship can prove to be beneficial for both UBD and TBMB, whereby UBD students can be trained to be ready for employment and TBMB can minimise training downtime for new UBD recruits (while also) accumulating academic evidence related to their products,” they added.

The flagship product of TBMB is the ‘Taberumo ice flakes’ and represents the world’s first fresh frozen ice-flake raw spirulina which at the moment is mainly sold in the Japanese market by the parent company.

UBD and TBMB staff seen at the Taberumo factory. Image: Azrina Zin
UBD and TBMB staff in a group photo in front of the Taberumo factory. Image: Azrina Zin

“However, works are currently in progress to market this product to Brunei Darussalam,” TBMB continued, adding that the introduction of TBMB products to the domestic market will commence once the company enters Phase 2 of operations.

Speaking in an interview with The Bruneian, Managing Director Dr. Tomoyuki Hatano explained that TBMB’s production has always been designed based on demand, and due to this, the company has been focussing its production capacity towards its main market in Japan which has seen a significant increase in demand.

The spirulina can also be consumed as a drink. Image: Azrina Zin
The spirulina can also be consumed as biscuit spreads or jams. Image: Azrina Zin

According to Hatano, TBMB’s current production capacity sits at 20 metric tonnes of the per year, exporting its products to Japan once every two months however, this year in particular, TBMB has had to export an average of 0.4 metric tonnes of the ‘Taberumo ice flakes’ to meet the Japanese market demand.

“We are working on it (introducing TBMB products to the domestic market) but before we do anything else we have to firstly understand the the local market, because we have to be careful to avoid overproduction which would be a waste of resources,” he said.

Pipes containing the spirulina algae at the Taberumo farm. Image: Azrina Zin

The deputy director then shared that with Phase 2 which is expected to push TBMB’s production capacity to 135 metric tonnes per year on the horizon, the company is looking to expand its team which currently consists of 14 local employees along with four management staff from Japan.

Accounting and Administrative Manager Sarah Hj Ahmad said as an FDI, TBMB is committed towards to give employment opportunities to local Bruneians, seeing as unemployment is still an issue in the sultanate.

The frozen ice-flake raw spirulina ready for packaging. Image: Azrina Zin

“Currently, we are just a manufacturing company, but as we expand our business further, to the domestic market as well as other markets in the region, we of course would need more people joining our team whether for sales and marketing or cultivation and production,” said General Manager, Accounting and Administration, Masayuki Kanai.

In terms of manpower, with TBMB being a state-of-the-art biotechnology company, they have expressed interest in hiring more people from the science field especially biotechnology and chemistry, particularly for the company’s inevitable increased production.

“We are always looking to continually improve our production and cultivation, and for this we need highly motivated people who are curious of bio-innovations and are passionate about it,” added Fahim Ibrahim, Cultivation Team Lead.

(L to R) Dr. Tomoyuki Hatano, Managing Directo, Sarah Amanina Haji Ahmad, Accounting and Administration Manager Fahim Ibrahim, Cultivation Team Lead and. Masayuki Kanai, General Manager, Accounting & Administration. Image: Azrina Zin
UBD and TBMB staff in a photo at the Taberumo office. Image: Azrina Zin

THE BRUNEIAN | BRUNEI-MUARA

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