Table Speech


Climate Change

January 25, 2017

Mr. Minoru Amoh
President, Office Amoh


 I had worked for DuPont Japan for 36 years and retired as Chairman last March. DuPont was founded in 1802 in the State of Delaware, USA. For more than two centuries, the company has developed and launched various products through innovative technologies that respond to the changing times. Its scope of operation has expanded through M&A. In the past 30 years, it has sold the oil, pharmaceutical, textile and automotive coating businesses and acquired the medical, a seed and agricultural, food and enzymes as well as electronics businesses. The company bases its business strategy on sustainable growth, while the external environment undergoes changes associated with population growth. I admit I was surprised by the unexpected news at the end of 2015 that DuPont would merge with the Dow Chemical Company. The emergence of a 130-billion-dollar chemical company is expected to enhance innovation, global scale advantages and product portfolios.

 The merger added a new page in the history of DuPont. Likewise, I opened a new chapter in my life as I started to assist an agribusiness venture (Towada Green-tuff AgroScience Co. Ltd.) last May. The company mines the green tuff Towada Ishi at Oodate City, Akita Prefecture, and processes it into agricultural materials. Recent studies, based on verification tests, show that Towada Ishi works as a “bio-stimulant” to improve crop vigor, yields, quality and activate compost micro-organisms. Bio-stimulants are made from natural substances and micro-organisms. Its market is expanding in Europe with an annual growth rate of 12% and R&D is active both in Europe and the USA. In Japan, however, development is yet to take place.

 We have traditionally used fermented fertilizers as they seem to promote plant growth, enhance crop quality and improve resistance against disease and pests. But we don’t know much about the mechanisms of such efficacy.

 When we use Towada Ishi as a bio-stimulant, it can create an optimal environment for plants. We are currently conducting tests in different fields across Japan to verify its effectiveness for various products, including lettuce, spring onion, tomato, strawberry, carnation and corn.

 Towada Ishi is also known to promote ammonia decomposition and is used as bedding material for poultry farms at Oodate City. We have also launched on experiments at pig farms to use green tuff in reducing odors.

 After spending 36 years at a technology-driven global company with diversified product portfolios, I have ventured on formulating a business strategy to expand the market both at home and abroad for a natural “bio-stimulant” Towada Ishi. I admit there are some challenges I face in this totally new business domain, but I am determined to do my best to secure food safety and security through sustainable agriculture.


Will Cash Registers Disappear from Stores?

January 25, 2017

Mr. Kazuharu Teraoka
Chairman of the Board, Teraoka Seiko Co., Ltd.


 A small grocery store opened in Seattle last December which doesn’t have a cash register. The on-line retail giant Amazon.com introduced this convenience-store type service called “Amazon Go,” based on Artificial Intelligence (AI). Shoppers tap their cellphones on a turnstile as they walk into the store, pick up the items from the shelves and then simply walk out. The items chosen are added to the virtual cart and if they put the items back on the shelf, they will be removed from their cart. When the shoppers leave, the app adds up everything they have chosen and charges to their Amazon account. Amazon.com calls it “Just walk out technology,” which gives shoppers a “no waiting line, no checkout” stress-free shopping environment. AI processes the information acquired by multiple surveillance cameras and sensors installed in the store and verifies customer-specific purchases. It is based on a technology similar to self-driving cars.

 Amazon Go store is currently open only to Amazon employees participating in a testing program and is expected to be open to the public earlier this year. While Amazon.com denies, the Wall Street Journal reports that 2,000 stores will be launched in the near future across the USA. I must say this single store can cause devastating changes to three industries.

 Firstly, the cash register market could be on the verge of disruption. As a manufacturer, we have been working to reduce stress felt by shoppers waiting in checkout queues. While our industry has succeeded in shortening checkout speed, we never imagined that cash registers themselves would become unnecessary. Amazon.com could eventually provide this technology through AWS (Amazon Web Services) platform, which could free retailers from purchasing cash registers.

 As a second change, cashiers could lose their job when cash registers disappear. In the USA, for example, 3.5 million are said to be working as cashiers. If President Trump finds out what Amazon.com plans to do, he might post harsh messages against the company.

 Thirdly, the existing retail industry could suffer from the devastating threat posed by on-line retailers when they start building their own stores. Amazon.com already has a massive group of members (Amazon accounts) and an extensive distribution network, not to mention its overwhelming procurement capacity. All of these could turn the company into a real-world retail giant.

 Over a century ago, Joseph Schumpeter called innovation “creative destruction.” I must say the small shop opened last December marks some revolutionary changes that could unfold from now on. We must learn the lessons of the once world’s largest film manufacturer Kodak which failed to adapt to changes and survive with the emergence of digital cameras. Faced with huge changes that could threaten our industry, I would like to take a positive look and redefine the raison d’être of my company.