In 2019, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) started with a vision of setting up demonstration farms to display Japan's excellent agricultural technology as a package in J-Methods Farming in Anand, State of Gujarat, India. With the support of 16 Japanese companies' technology, products, and service, SEWA (Self Employed Women's Association) manages the J-Methods farming at Anand and has grown delicious tomatoes and cabbages. From the seeds of cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and cabbages to the drip irrigation pipes used at the farm, packaging material used for packing the farm produce, and the cooler boxes for transporting the produce, everything in this project is provided by the Japanese companies using the latest high-end technologies. In a recent conversation with FoodTechBiz, Sakata Hisashi of Japanese Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, gave a detailed insight into J-Methods Farming, the vision behind this project, and the future plans.
FTB - Agri-tech serves as an effective solution to the issue of Global Hunger. How do you see J-Methods farming can benefit the Indian agriculture sector and Indian farmers?
Sakata Hisashi - India is a vast country with sufficient farmland and young labors. However, its productivity and yield are still low due to the lack of technologies and techniques. On the other hand, many Japanese companies have excellent technologies and practices related to the agriculture sector. They are eager to foray into the Indian Market, which is one of the most growing economies in the world. If we combine those advantages from both sides, we can increase the yield and productivity of Indian farmers. It means we can decrease global hunger as well.
FTB - How many Japanese companies are collaborating with you on this project? Please also tell us more about the profiles of these companies.
Sakata Hisashi - 16 companies are involved this year. Please visit our website (Click here) for details of each company.
FTB - Please throw some light on your association with Abyuday Group and SEWA.
Sakata Hisashi - Japanese MAFF has full responsibility for the J-Methods Farming project, but it is impossible to manage daily activities at the site. SEWA was very helpful for this project. SEWA was responsible for running the farm by operating daily activities done by its member farmers. Abhyuday has a branch office in Tokyo, Japan. They are coordinating everything among SEWA and Japanese companies like a bridge. For example, they coordinated the importation of Japanese seeds in the customs and quarantine procedures. Abhyuday also conducted tasting and feedback sessions to help us get valuable feedback from Indian consumers for the produce of our model farm.
FTB - In India, land ownership is a very emotive issue, even if it is a contract for a specific duration. How will you convince farmers to get associated with you?
Sakata Hisashi - Yes, it was a really difficult job through this project. SEWA provided us with several candidate farmlands before starting this project. And also, they made a deal with its landowner.
FTB - Are you also planning to conduct special programs to generate awareness among Indian farmers on J-methods farming?
Sakata Hisashi - Setting demonstration field provided very good opportunities to generate awareness for neighboring farmers. In addition, SEWA invited a few farmers groups from their sister organization sitting in the other states to the site. We are planning to continue these activities in the next year as well.
FTB - How do you define the project's scope – for example, type of crop, technologies, etc.
Sakata Hisashi - We welcome making any type of crop and vegetable using Japanese technologies and techniques. But we want Indian farmers and consumers to realize Japanese quality through each process from farming to retail; seed, irrigation system, agricultural machinery, pesticides, bio-stimulant, food storage material cooling system, etc.
FTB - Please tell us about various parameters on which you decide the success or failure of the project.
Sakata Hisashi - If Indian farmers become aware of the importance of Japanese technologies and techniques in their daily farming activities and adopt those to their farming, it is the most desirable success.
FTB - Do you also have plans to generate market linkages for farmers and what would be the model for the same – Will it be D2C or B2B within country or export as well?
Sakata Hisashi - Yes. A market linkage is a key to success for this project. We prefer the B2B model since the Indian retailing process is complicated. It is currently only for the domestic market, but it is not impossible to try to export in the future.
FTB - After completing the pilot project with Abhyuday and Sewa group, what is next in the action plan?
Sakata Hisashi - We want to make the concept of this project bigger and more stable. We are looking for a strong partner, especially for funding.
FTB - How J-Method farming helps India in meeting the global sustainability targets?
Sakata Hisashi - Sustainability is the key for this century, even in Japan. If we have a chance to introduce eco-friendly technologies and techniques, it is favorable. If farming in India becomes more eco-friendly, global sustainability is greatly improved because India has the second biggest population in the world.
FTB - What were the major challenges faced by you during execution and how are you planning to overcome those challenges in future projects?
Sakata Hisashi - Everything was a big challenge for us since no one had done such a project in India. Dare to say, selling produces is challenging still now. We are proud of our produce quality, but it may take some more time to get consumers interested. We have learnt that only "High quality" is not enough for appealing for high-end consumer.
FTB - Please share your vision for future expansion?
Sakata Hisashi - We want to expand the concept of this project to other areas and states by getting support from the states government or central government of India. We are looking forward to reviewing the result of this pilot project and discussing our future together.
FTB - This project is a win-win situation for both parties. How do you see this association of India and Japan in the long run?
Sakata Hisashi - The world population is increasing sharply in this century. It is vital for the international community to increase food production. India has the second-largest population, especially in the young generation and has vast farmland. Also, its economy is growing steadily. Japan has advanced technologies and techniques related to agriculture. If we combine those advantages from both sides, India and Japan can significantly contribute to the international community. Working together for the goal is a real friendship between both countries.