Arigato Natto 3ーFive steps to scale up small initiative in Europe

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Since I moved to Denmark (last November), this is the first entry to write something related to the experience here.

I could have written about Nordic culture, Danish winter, mindset, new year fireworks, its social welfare system, etc. But instead of those, the topic I decided to write about is this.

Natto making in Denmark as a scale-up.

Yes, it is about natto making which I started in Africa. But it is also about showing how to scale up something. So hopefully this will serve for natto lovers as well as anyone who wants to scale up what you do, be it a start-up, project, hobby or your learning cycle.


For those who are not familiar with Natto, it is a Japanese fermented soybeans and it is one of the secret of healthy life in Japan as well as some addictive effect (some people hate and some cannot live without it).

If you are in Japan, you can buy it very cheaply so I don’t see much benefit of making one. But if you are abroad without easy access to it, making one can be an option. That’s why I started making one and learned sustainable way to make it in Africa (please see below).

Arigato NattoーHow to Make Natto at Home Even in Africa

Arigato Natto 2ーHow to Make Natto Sustainablly Even in Africa

After moving to Denmark, I resumed this process and after a few small scale pilot, I decided to scale up.

5 Steps to Scale Up

According to World Health Organization (WHO), there are 5 steps to scale up any initiative, which are as follows (source:WHO):

  1. Identify triggers for innovation
  2. Assess scalability
  3. Develop a scaling-up plan
  4. Prepare for scaling up
  5. Scale up the intervention

Application Scale-up steps to Natto making

Let me apply those steps to my natto making scale-up, hoping that this example can shed some light on how to scale up other initiatives.

Identify triggers for innovation

My triggers were need to make more quantity at once.

First of all, I knew I would want to keep eating Natto for health and joy. But I was making it on a monthly basis, which felt like time-consuming as it needs 2 day process. It was partly because I used to use cooler box to maintain high temperature (around 40C°) for fermentation for at least 1 day, which limited the quantity of Natto I can put in the box, thus I have to keep making it frequently.

The good thing is that now that I have a central heating system in my Danish apartment, I decided to take a look at the feasibility fo scaling up. Since I wasn’t sure when the heating system will be off, I wanted to take a quick action.

Assess scalability

Scalability was previous successful experience at small scale. Also, I needed an enabling environment such as central heating system, enough ingredient (soy beans) and equipment (pot to cook soy beans and plastic box to keep them in, space in the fridge).

Develop a scaling-up plan

So  I decided to plan for it. First, I aimed to make double amount of Natto. I needed 2 days to stay home so decided to book one of my weekend.

Prepare for scaling up

I went to the store to buy 2kg of soy beans. Then I set up the environment to maintain warm temperature, then disinfected all the equipments.

Scale up the intervention

Once you have preparation and spare enough resource/time, now it’s the most interesting part, implementation. I had enough experience of small scale natto making and enabling environment.

Of course, things didn’t go exactly as I planned. Since it was larger amount of soy beans after soaking them into water,I had to use more pots than expected (see the below gif for the growth of  of soy beans).

Here is the fermentation environment I set up out of central heating system and some pillows (to maintain temperature).

Just to avoid the heat from escaping, I used whatever I found and covered the room.

The result?

First scale up was successful, and I made natto for more than 2 months waiting in the freezer!

The learning of this time 

To make natto making at scale, I needed a trigger, scalable experience and enabling environment, planning, preparation and implementation, and this whole process can be applied to other scale-up. 

Thank you for reading this article. If you like it, please don’t forget to subscribe before your leave. If you have any comments/questions, please feel free to do so. Have great learning!



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