Aleph Inc. manages around 300 restaurants throughout Japan, including their flagship hamburger and steak restaurant chain “Bikkuri Donkey”. Aiming to provide high quality food with security and customers’ safety, Aleph launched an experimental farm in 1988 and started to work on sustainable agriculture with decreasing chemicals in procured materials. Aleph also contributes to building a sustainable recycling-oriented society reducing energy consumption, waste and water use, recycling of kitchen refuse and biodiversity conservation through their business activities.
Aleph started the “Less Agrochemical Rice (shou-nou-yaku-mai)” project in 1996. This is Aleph’s private label rice produced with only one application of herbicide and no other chemicals, and encouraged to use organic fertilizer, reaching to 80% of fertilizer usage on average, based on Aleph’s strict specifications. Currently around 700 rice produces have signed up for contracts. Since April 2006 Aleph has been able to serve private-label rice in all “Bikkuri Donkey” restaurants. On the rice paddies that use less agrochemicals, many living things have begun to be seen, such as frogs, dragonflies, loaches and herons.
After this step forward for their business model for sustainability with low environmental load, Aleph derived the “Living Things Friendly Rice Paddies” project, which ensures “production with environmental concerns about rice paddies and living things, such as irrigation in winter, biotopes, fishways”, “production without agrochemicals and chemical fertilizers” and so on. They attained an increase in farming area up to 100ha (10% of current production volume) in 2011 and were serving the rice in 22 “Bikkuri Donkey” restaurants in 2012.
They also set “Eniwa Demonstration Rice Paddies” with the method of winter-flooded rice paddies (“fuyumizu tambo”) and its project. This method keeps paddies flooded and left as wetland conditions until spring, not dried out post-harvest as is usual. This method is adopted for various reasons in some regions, including as habitats for valuable migratory birds, beneficial effects on organic rice farming such as substitute for fertilizers, weed and pest control through increased number of sludge worms (tubifex) and other living things by winter-flooding. In demonstrations in “Eniwa” paddies, aroud 3500 people including employees and local people had experience with sustainable rice farming as seeding, transplanting, harvesting etc. without risk to health and an even succession of rice-growing culture and educational results.