Hiromae City, Aomori Prefecture, is known to be the birthplace of the Japanese apple production method. Toshihiko Moriyama, who runs an apple farm, has continued for generations in that area. We are working on the development of “ADAM”, a tool for visualizing the apple production process and the production of processed products. I will send you the future of apple farmers, which Mr. Moriyama thinks, on three occasions. In the second part, we’ll provide the episodes we feel are essential to the processed products and the products we’re actually working on.
The ability of processed products
We believe it is important to create specially processed products that improve the management of apple farmers. Most farmers basically make apples for sale raw and send only those that look bad or scratched and cannot send them to the agricultural cooperative for processing. We are also making apple juice. However, the purchase price for processing is low, not worth the price compared to the raw production cost. There was even an atmosphere like “I sold it because it was better than nothing.”
At first glance, it seems that the processed products are not profitable, but if you process from the beginning, you can reduce production costs. In the case of apples, there is some work that needs to be done to improve the look and taste. For example, there is a job of cutting off excess leaves so that the apple is evenly red, but no processing is necessary. Eliminating this job can cut costs by about 30%, and even if it’s sold for processing, there might still be a bit of a surplus.
Apples are carefully cared for and cannot be sold
I really feel that I have to make a special product for processing the year all the apples have been destroyed by hail damage. Most of the damage is actually damaged by hail damage in June. Apples with large scratches cannot be transported to agricultural cooperatives. Even so, the industry has spearheaded a “do your best without giving up” campaign and we have done it with the diligence as usual.
The result is an apple that tastes almost the same, despite being scratched. However, due to not meeting the standards, the agricultural cooperatives did not buy. As a result, most of them have been converted to processing, and a 20-kilo apple box costs 50 yen a box. In addition, there are too many apple farmers in the same situation and processing companies also restrict purchasing, a large amount of excess apples are thrown away.
The truth is, when the hail damage really hurt me, I should have stopped production so I wouldn’t incur unnecessary costs.
In this case, I realized that if I do it the way I used to, the risk will be too great to continue as a corporation. You cannot get rid of natural disasters such as hail and storm damage. However, in a corporation requiring manpower like Moriyamaen, if the employee’s salary cannot be paid, it will collapse. As a corporation, I feel the need to come up with something to avoid risk.
Attempts to use “fruit pruning” are thrown away
As soon as I started thinking about creating a specially processed product, I got a story from an acquaintance saying, “I want to make fruit juice from apples without pesticides.” Fruit pruning is the work of picking other berries to concentrate nutrients on the fruit that can grow when the apple is young. About 90% of the fruit on the tree is thrown away, leaving behind large, well-shaped apples.
It is very attractive not only as a product for processing but also as a value creating by wasteful products. Immediately, I decided to plant about 1.5 hectares without any pesticides.
However, the effort was fruitless and ended within the first year. It is true that even apples picked for immature juices can harvest the damage caused by pests and diseases without pesticides, and the commercial value of the ripe fruit has disappeared. I gave up on trying to continue because the pest spread to the farmers around me and caused trouble.
Initially we used organic fertilizer and we could turn it into a JAS certified organic production method, but our business partners at that time were particularly interested in absolutely no pesticides, so we decided to say goodbye.
The idea for only outsourced products remains behind
On the other hand, based on the idea of ”creating processed products using fruit pruning”, we started the research on making seeds (cider) using fruit thinning method. Previously, pesticides were sprayed before fruit picking, the insecticide was still at the fruit picking stage and could not be used, but by combining other insect repellent methods with the insecticide, the the fruit picking. Now you can get fruit that meets pesticide standards.
Research on seedlings by fruit pruning was carried out and the construction of the brewery began. It is expected to go on sale in the second half of 2017 as “Tekikaka Cedre”.
In addition to seeds, we also make dried apples in our processing plant. It’s as simple as cutting and drying apples, but we paid special attention to keeping the flavor of raw apples as much as possible. In general, to prioritize work efficiency and prevent discoloration, a large number of cut apples are exposed to salt water before drying. However, when exposed to water will lose the taste of apples. Moriyamaen dried apples need to be washed before cutting and dried right after cutting. By doing so, you can make dried apples with a rich flavor similar to raw apples.
We decided to divide the method of production, with varieties that are profitable even when raw are raw edible products and others that are processed products. In this way, we believe being able to see what to overlook and what to focus on during business hours and shifting PDCA to improved management will lead to sustainable apple farming.
What to do because there is a lot of manual work to make farming profitable using full IT.
Going to the apple plantation will bring Hiromae’s future. To overcome a negative start.