Environment | In harmony with nature
Enhancing contribution (Procurement) In harmony with nature

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Providing technology to boost productivity of small farms

The majority of natural rubber production worldwide is conducted by smallholder rubber farmers in Southeast Asia. The Bridgestone Group uses large volumes of natural rubber, but unfortunately, the productivity of these farmers is often low and the natural rubber they produce vary in quantity and quality. To help smallholder farmers improve the quantity and quality of their operations, the Group provides high-quality Hevea rubber tree seedlings and conduct technical training in key producing countries using the same productivity-improvement techniques the Group developed for its own rubber farms at the agricultural training center established in the city of Siantar in North Sumatra. It also implemented a technical training program for select instructor candidates.

Such initiatives are expected to improve the quality of natural rubber, increase income per unit area for the farmers and help control expansion of agricultural lands.

AI-based disease diagnostic technology for rubber trees

Symptoms of white root disease

Para rubber trees are a major source of natural rubber, a critically important raw material for ensuring a sustainable supply chain for manufacturing tires. However, it is vulnerable to disease such as white root disease (WRD), which is on the rise and is difficult to diagnose because it affects the roots of the plant.

Previously, Bridgestone Corporation developed a simple breakthrough diagnostic test for early detection of WRD using a reagent kit based on analyzed DNA sequences of pathogens, which provides a simple visual confirmation in the field without the need for special devices. (For more details, see news release)

This time, in December 2020, the Company announced the development of a diagnostic technology that can successfully identify diseased trees across vast farm areas quickly and with about 90% accuracy, regardless of type or age. As a joint project with Information Services International-Dentsu, Ltd., the drone-based technology merges aerial photography and artificial intelligence (AI) image analysis for disease detection with the knowledge of on-site farm disease experts to distinguish trees with WRD.

This technology makes it possible to diagnose and treat trees with WRD at early stages, before the disease impacts rubber yield, and thereby contributes to improved productivity at rubber farms.

For more details, see news release.

Leveraging big data for optimal rubber planting

In order to find a solution to decouple business growth from its environmental impact and resource consumption, the Group is working on research and development to improve the efficiency of farms producing Para rubber tree-derived natural rubber, which is currently used to produce tires.

In January 2021, Bridgestone Corporation announced that it has developed a system that seeks optimal tree planting plan over more than 30 years. Rubber tree plantations use different clones of trees over vast areas and face many different management issues, such as how to optimize the number of trees in a planting area and harvest procedures. In consultation with the Institute of Statistical Mathematics, an academic research organization in Japan, the Company developed an innovative system that addresses these issues to provide higher farm yield and contribute to a sustainable rubber supply over the long term. Leveraging big data that includes various farm data, yield projections, and tree varieties, the system uses a mathematical model developed by Bridgestone together with a programming approach in order to derive an optimal solution for planting trees: what clones of trees, when, where, and how much to plant.

Going forward, Bridgestone will further customize the system before offering it for use at other farms with the aim of contributing to a sustainable and stable global supply of natural rubber.

For more details, see news release.

Forest restoration around natural rubber farms (Indonesia)

Rubber tree forest

Achievement reported at the local meeting

Near P.T. Bridgestone Kalimantan Plantation (BSKP) in Indonesia’s South Kalimantan Province, there is a neglected state-owned forest destroyed by fire. W-BRIDGE Initiative, which was jointly operated by Bridgestone and Waseda University implemented a project to revitalize this state-owned forest by utilizing a citizen forestry program from 2012 to 2020, with Waseda University and the Japan International Forestry Promotion and Cooperation Center collaborating with BSKP, Lambung Mangkurat University and the Tanah Laut Regency Forestry Department.

The project had helped local citizens plant rubber trees and other agricultural products in the forest, as well as native trees and shrubs that used to grow there long ago. This forest management provided high economic value for the community and contributed to biodiversity conservation. Local residents also conducted patrols and other activities to prevent forest fires. These activities empowered local residents to become self-sufficient and created mechanisms for long-term forest revitalization and management of forests. BSKP supported the residents by providing rubber tree saplings and agricultural technologies.

The project, which has taken the collective efforts of the local community, academia and the company, has completed a cumulative total of 67 hectares of forest reclamation by 2020. BSKP has been able to collect latex by tapping the rubber trees planted near Siring cliff in 2012. BSKP conducted training of tapping for neighbors in 2020 and it plans to donate rubber trees in 2021.

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