Korean IT Agriculture Threatens JapanPlant Clinic Method is applied in Korea.
Great changes are taking place in the vegetable market in Asia. China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, and especially South Korea, Thailand and Malaysia are trying to rebuild agriculture as national strategy. What are their purposes?
Towards a Ten Trillion-Class Market
Recession spread all over Asia after the currency collapse in Thailand in 1997, and Japan hasn't gotten over the recession yet. But Korea, Thailand, and Malaysia started to work on agriculture as a national policy, using the crisis as an opportunity to develop new markets. These countries regard agriculture as a nationwide business, and chose Japan as the business target.
Japanese consumers are the pickiest in Asia about the quality of vegetables they eat, which means there could be many problems for countries exporting vegetables, which are fresh food, to Japan. Still, Korea, Thailand, and Malaysia chose Japan as their export target, because Japan has a large vegetable market of 4 trillion yen (ca. 30 billion in US$). Problems of freshness were solved, thanks to the development of transportation technologies. Moreover, 17 % of the vegetables consumed in Japan are imported, and foreign countries may get the opportunity tomake further inroads on the Japanese market.
Aiming at export to the Japanese market, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia and President Kim Dae-jung of South Korea have directly taken leadership for the development of agriculture. The improvement of agriculture in Korea is especially astonishing. There is a special team at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in Korea, which is responsible for exporting vegetables to Japan. Japan is the first target in the world market strategy of many countries.
New Agricultural Strategies in Gyeongsangnam-do and Pusan, South Korea
What kinds of concrete strategies are being taken in Korea? In truth, the export amount from Korea to Japan increased 14 times from 1997, when the economic crises occurred, to 2000.
From Pusan to the whole area of Gyeongsangnam-do, a huge number of cultivating facilities and pipe houses for growing cherry tomatoes, paprika plants, tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, etc. have been built. You could call this area an "export estate." The width of it is approximately 5 hundred thousand hectares (ca. 120 thousand acres). The Korean government provided 50 % of the money needed to build these facilities.
These vegetable production houses were built exclusively for Japanese consumers. Japanese agriculture practices were adopted, and Japanese consumers' tastes, and their trends in eating, were analyzed at the National Horticultural Research Institute within a short period.
For example, Japanese consumers like cherry tomatoes with a high sugar content. Therefore, cultivation at the facilities in Korea is done according to the Japanese-style production method, including the selection of varieties to grow. Although the post-war conflict between Korea and Japan is still argued about, I feel the Koreans' desire for unification with their growing of Japanese vegetables for the Japanese market. The U.S. dominates foreign vegetable exports to Japan, with 17% of the 4 trillion yen of Japanese vegetable imports. Other countries have to compete with the rest. Thus, Korean agriculture aims at high quality and tastes favored by the Japanese. Pipe houses are being used in South Korea. Here, we can see the national business strategy to regard farmers as entrepreneurs at work. Researchers at the National Horticultural Research Institute visit each pipe house by rotation, once every three days.
For the production of paprika plants, the government and municipalities subsidized half of the money to construct greenhouses. Temperature and nutrition of the plants inside the greenhouses are controlled by computers. Most paprika consumed in Japan was imported from the Netherlands before, but now, imports from Korea are increasing.
Connect Farms through the Internet
Korean farmers do not simply produce vegetables. They are making use of information technology to promote their products. There are more than 20,000 farms that utilize the information trends about Japanese consumers, sales at supermarkets, and vegetable price fluctuations distributed through the Internet. The farmers have distributed 330-page-books entitled "Export Strategy According to Four Main Areas in Japan" to Korean farms and trade companies, to try to spread information about Japan. I can't help but root for them in their fight to export vegetables to Japan.
But the Korean's strategy has caused some problems. It invites price declines of cherry tomatoes, tomatoes and green peppers in Japanese markets. The Japanese bear market is one of the reasons for vegetable price deflation, but Japanese agriculture is also greatly affected by the imports of Asian vegetables. Japanese Agricultural Cooperative Groups have appealed to the Japanese government to limit imports.
At the same time, even though Korean farmers can produce cheaper vegetables, it would be unprofitable for them as well if prices collapse. So they try to shift their products to expensive vegetables such as paprika, strawberries, cucumbers, hot varieties of green peppers, zucchinis, etc. Indeed, this is a big national project.
Dr. Choi Won Kae and the Plant Clinic Method
Prof. Choi of the Top Farmers' Training Center attached to Chinju National University, Korea, is very involved in this export project. He also works as the chief of the Training Center of Agricultural Technology of the Korean Advanced Farmers Association. He graduated from the Graduate School of Agriculture of Kyushu University, Japan, and has a Ph. D in agriculture. He is the most suitable person for spearheading Korea's agricultural strategy towards Japan, and he is closely involved with the Plant Clinic Method. (Please see the Nature Interface, Vol. 1 / No. 1, for details on the PC Method.) Seigo Abe, the executive director of the PC Center, was invited to Korea in April, 2000 and gave a lecture entitled "New Technologies for Producing High-Quality Strawberries for Export." Here is a letter of recommendation that Prof. Choi wrote after a request from Malaysia.
I, Professor Dr. Won Kae, Choi would like to express my gratitude to Mr. Seigo Abe of the Plant Clinic Center Ltd., Japan, for introducing the Plant Clinic Method of plant cultivation to Korea.
The usage of the Plant Clinic Technology has resulted in a very substantial increase of yield, and standards of high quality have been achieved with hardly any pest problems for the 120 farmers of the Korean Advanced Farmers Association, who were selected to try out the Plant Clinic Method. I was appointed Project Coordinator, and monitored their progress. A good example is my own son's chili farm. The yield has increased by over 100%, and the produce has even won awards in Korea for its quality and texture.
I fully recommend this Plant Clinic technology to any country that wishes to improve their agricultural standards, without any reservation.
Korea has a harsher climate than Japan, and the soil is not very productive. I think they also have soil that contains nitrate nitrogen, which can transform to a carcinogen, as do Japan and the U.S. Considering these circumstances, Korean farmers are taking initiative in using the PC Method for the cultivation of chili, which is one of the most important vegetables in Korea, because of the comsumption of kimchi, or Korean pickles, which are made with chilis. I think this is very meaningful. Of course, Mr. Abe was invited to Malaysia, and the PC Method was introduced there, also. Please refer to the Nature Interface, Vol. 1 / No. 1, for more details on the PC Method.
Plants are composed of oxygen, hydrogen and carbon, which make up 94% of the plant. This means that plants absorb 94% of their components from water and air, not from fertilizers. The five main components of fertilizers, which are nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, account for only 6% of the plant's composition. Water is the most important component for plants. But farmers use ground water, river water and rainwater almost directly. Naturally, such water includes variable organic matters, toxic substances, and pathogenic bacterium.
So, how should we obtain "good water" for crops? Here, Mr. Abe found "oxydator." The oxydator is a device to produce pure oxygen and active oxygen using hydrogen peroxide. Active oxygen inhibits propagation of waterbloom, and sterilizes pathogens. This device was improved further, to supply mainly active oxygen. Active oxygen itself is not harmful, because it changes to oxygen or oxides reacting with substances in soil. Neither it is harmful to crops.
1952 Born in Miyagi Prefecture on May 1.
1975 After graduating from college, he went back to the province of his birth, Wakuya, and became a farmer. He undertook various research, as participated in the activities of the Plant Clinic Center.
1990 Established the PC Center Inc., and became its executive director.
1996 Became a member of Miyagi Agriculture and Related Industry Improvement Committee at its request.
1999 Became a technical adviser of the Korean Advanced Farmers Association, at its request.
ソウル校外に立地する温室 Greenhouses in the suburbs of Seoul. One greenhouse is about 3300 m2 (ca. 4000 yd2). Cooperation with the PC Center is promoted.
太陽光と外気温をセンサーが Sensors measure the strength of the sunlight and atmospheric temperature, and shields open or close in response to light and temperature.
「PC農法」韓国版 "PC Method" (Korean version)
This book explains the agricultural method of using information technology to increase yields.
ソウルの蘭農家に栽培指導する Chief Executive Mr. Abe (on the left) advises orchid farmers on their cultivating methods in Seoul. Prof. Choi is to the right of Mr. Abe.