Space is a testing ground for research and development! [Space Brothers Collab #21]

Warpspace Inc.
8 min readAug 9


© Euglena & © Chuya Koyama / Kodansha

The term “space development” covers various development activities and their objectives. In this series, we will speculate on the present and future of space development with Astronaut Serika Ito, who has been appointed Chief Dream Officer of Warpspace. In this 21st article, we welcomed Dr. Kengo Suzuki, CTO of Euglena Co., a biotechnology company engaged in research on food and biofuels using the microalgae euglena, to discuss space food under development and collaboration with the space sector. We asked him about the space food they are developing and their collaboration with the space field.

Special ramen — Taste of the future

Mr. Suzuki: My name is Kengo Suzuki from Euglena. Today I brought “2040 Sustainable Ramen” to Serika!

© Euglena

This new product was developed as part of our efforts to provide sustainable and nutritionally balanced meals during long stays in space. Please try it!

Serika: I was wondering about this ramen. Thank you very much. I’ll have some! There are some unfamiliar toppings.

© Chuya Koyama / Kodansha

Mr. Suzuki: The vegetable ingredient is a stem of “Opuntia Cactus,” grown in South America, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Middle East. The Opuntia cactus has attracted attention for its resistance to heat, drought, and other environmental factors. It is used to prevent desertification and soil erosion and as a superfood that contains nutrients from green and yellow vegetables and fruits. And the char siu pork (roasted pork fillet) is a special product made by Next Meats, a Japanese startup that develops alternative meats, to which Euglena is added and dried. Euglena can be cultivated in space.

Serika: I see! Euglena has been developing food products utilizing Euglena. Why did you decide to develop ramen this time?

Mr. Suzuki: Because ramen is becoming a soul food for Japanese people, I thought it would be interesting. When a Japanese ramen restaurant opens overseas, even if the price is not low, it becomes popular, and ramen is a globally known cuisine. From the creator’s point of view, ramen requires ingenuity because combining soup, noodles, and ingredients is important, and it is a challenge worth taking on.

Serika: What do you recommend for sustainable ramen in 2040?

Mr. Suzuki: I thought that if we could not only recreate ramen so that it could be eaten in space but also create something delicious by successfully combining things that have not been on the table much yet, we would be able to remember emotions that we have never felt before. That is why I hesitated about the name itself, ramen.

To propose a new taste within the ramen category, using bizarre ingredients might have been one way to go. But if I had to go to the trouble, I wanted to make something widely accepted with ingredients needed for the future. We created 2040 Sustainable Ramen based on the idea that it would be a good idea to collect and deliver such ingredients that are not currently available because they are difficult to produce but that will have more opportunities to appear on the dinner table once production techniques are improved, or the social environment changes and they become more acceptable. This is why we created 2040 Sustainable Ramen. In other words, this special set of ramen allows you to experience new flavors in a single bowl of ramen ahead of time!

Potential of Euglena as both a plant and an animal

Serika: By the way, what kind of creature is Euglena? Please tell us again!

© Euglena

Mr. Suzuki: What kind of creature is it? It is a microalgae that combines the characteristics of plants and animals and is a type of algae like kelp and wakame seaweed. They are photosynthetic, so they can multiply if they have carbon dioxide, water, and light. Compared to other phytoplankton, it has more complex genetic information, which makes it an interesting research subject. If I start talking about how interesting it is as a living organism, there would be no end to it (laughs).

Serika: Mr. Suzuki, how did you start researching Euglena?

Mr. Suzuki: When I was a student, a professor in my laboratory had a mission to solve two problems with Euglena: the food problem and global warming countermeasures by reducing greenhouse gases.

The approach of growing plants to reduce carbon dioxide through photosynthesis is effective in combating global warming, but it also has its limitations. However, Euglena can be grown even in deserts by setting up an aquarium, and the grown cells have various uses. With the technology available at the time, it was not possible to cultivate Euglena in large quantities. Still, I thought it would be very interesting if it could be realized, and I sympathized with the professor’s idea.

In 2005, when I was 25 years old, I founded Euglena Co. In the same year, we cultivated a large amount of euglena. While expanding the scale of our operations, we have been expanding the scope of our business by conducting a wide range of research, including biofuels!

Serika: Euglena’s business is not limited to food; you are also involved in developing healthcare products and biofuels. What kind of ideas are you using to expand your business?

Mr. Suzuki: From the very beginning of our business, we have had the “5F model of biomass” as our strategy, and we have been thinking about the research areas and business domains in which we will advance. This is because we want to create and provide products through photosynthesis that people will find valuable.

© Euglena — Diagram shows the 5F of Biomass, the left arrow indicates the price per weight for each category, while the right arrow indicates the order of the business development.

Serika: You call the 5F model the acronym for Food, Fiber, Feed, Fertilizer, and Fuel, right?

Mr. Suzuki: That’s right. When we launched the company, we decided to start our business with food, which has the highest priority among the 5F model of biomass.

Research and development that can be realized only in the private sector

Serika: I think you could have continued your research on Euglena at university. Why did you decide to do research at a start-up or venture company?

Mr. Suzuki: One reason is that it is quite difficult for young researchers to receive large amounts of research funds under the current Japanese system. It was estimated that investing in large equipment to cultivate Euglena would be necessary or cost about 1 million yen per production, even if we already used the equipment. It would take a young researcher in his or her 20s a very long time to try to do this kind of initiative inside a university laboratory.

Now that we have written many papers and gained the trust of the academic community, we can receive support from the government. Still, at the time, it would be the smoothest and most rational way to acquire capital through equity and fund R&D on mass cultivation.

Serika: Mr. Suzuki, you are a member of the Space Utilization Committee of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

Mr. Suzuki: Yes, I am! In the subcommittee, I am asked to think about how Japan can make a greater presence in the field, even though the national budget is also limited.

Compared to when we launched Euglena, I feel that the voices of startups are reaching the government more easily. The current government has also announced its intention to support startups. The future is bright!

In 2025, Euglena will go into space!

Serika: I heard Euglena plans to conduct a space experiment with ElevationSpace. This startup is developing a satellite to conduct scientific experiments in space (see “The Future of the Earth with Astronaut Serika Ito #20”). I heard that you are planning to conduct space experiments on Euglena. What kind of results do you expect?

Suzuki: We can predict what will happen if we grow euglena under microgravity through experiments and simulations on the ground. Still, some things can only be done in orbit, so we decided to try a space experiment first. We could do space experiments on the International Space Station (ISS), but we wanted to work in tandem with a startup, so we have been communicating with ElevationSpace.

ElevationSpace’s service allows you to conduct experiments in space using a satellite and then bring the samples back to the ground. So I think we can read the genetic information of the live euglena returned from space and consider how it changes before and after the experiment.

Serika: So you can recover them alive on the ground? I am looking forward to seeing the results of the experiment. Are there any other areas of space development that are attracting your attention?

Mr. Suzuki: I think that Earth observation satellites and other satellites will have a high ripple effect on the ground, and I hope they will provide technology that we can use in our efforts! For example, it would be great to use satellites from space to investigate suitable places to grow Euglena or to search for environments where large numbers of Euglena are being produced.

Aiming at space, we can have cross-disciplinary discussions about various fields with people whose interests are usually separate from one another. Space has great appeal as a test bed for research and development.

Serika: Collaboration with earth observation satellites sounds interesting! I would love to see you take on this challenge. Finally, what do you hope to achieve through your business?

Mr. Suzuki: I think it will be the destination of our philosophy, “Sustainability First. We want to be able to produce as many resources that people need from Euglena as possible. In the future, we may be able to provide food, clothing, and shelter entirely with Euglena’s services. And our business goal is to realize as many of the 17 SDGs goals as possible by 2030. To achieve this goal, we will continue accumulating technology through service and R&D!

Serika: Thank you very much, Mr. Suzuki!

The 21st guest in the series of conversations with Astronaut Serika was Mr. Kengo Suzuki of Euglena Co.

In the next article, we will welcome Mr. Venkateshwara Pillay, representative of LatConnect 60, an Australian startup that supports agriculture and measures carbon emission concentration using satellites, to discuss the potential of the satellite business. Please look forward to it!



Warpspace Inc.

Warpspace develops “WarpHub InterSat”, an optical inter-satellite data relay service. We will realize this service for LEO Sat operators by 2025.