Hong Kong is to become only the second place in the world, after Japan, to adopt bioreactor technology for producing ginseng drinks. A bioreactor will be used to accelerate the growth of ginseng cells in a joint project between the Hong Kong Institute of Biotechnology and Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Japan uses the technology to mass produce the drink, and dominates the international market. Dr Albert Chang Yen, director of the biotechnology institute, said: 'We decided on ginseng because it is expensive, yet easily contaminated during growth. It is more cost-effective to use this technique. A large bioreactor can develop a tonne of ginseng cells in a few weeks.' Dr Teng Whei-lan, in charge of the project, said: 'Ginseng plants need a year to grow. But now, we can cultivate cells whenever we need, and need not worry about the environmental conditions. 'The bioreactor cultivation prevents soil-borne diseases which pass from generation to generation. That means we can control quality and produce disease-free stocks,' she said. Assistant Professor Wu Jian-yong of the PolyU's Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology said the experiment would begin in a two-litre bioreactor and be scaled up to a 20-litre device. The project has been funded with $200,000 from the PolyU.