Report: Controlled-Environment Agriculture Workshop, 19-24 March 2012, Tokyo and Sendai, Japan

Group Photo of Participants

ABOUT THE PROJECT

The Workshop on Controlled Environment Agriculture aimed to present to the participants a solution to the problems and issues in the present production systems: (1) food security and safety; (2) climate change; (3) rehabilitation efforts after disaster occurrence; (4) resource efficiency; and (5) employment generation.

OBJECTIVES FOR PARTICIPATION

My objective in participating in the Workshop was to give me an opportunity to know the current state of controlled-environment agriculture technologies and how they can be beneficial to environmentally degraded areas and those areas rendered unsustainable to farming by natural disasters. We have experienced natural disasters in the Philippines that resulted to conversion of farmlands into wastelands. The eruption of Mt Pinatubo in 1990 has destroyed thousands of hectares of prime agricultural lands. Typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009 have incurred huge damages to our agriculture sector.

With Controlled-environment agricultural production systems, food security in these affected communities can be minimized. Furthermore, agricultural products can become competitive because of the improvement in quality. The Central Luzon State University has a continuing involvement in controlled-environment agriculture (CEA). We have continuing researches on greenhouse production systems and hydroponics. We have promoted the use of locally fabricated greenhouses designed for tropical conditions to farmers. We have modest greenhouse facilities to conduct further research on CEA. It will be very beneficial for me and the University if I would be able to participate in the Project.

PROFILE OF PARTICIPANTS

The 18 participants for the workshop came from 10 countries representing Taiwan, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam.

There were two Filipino participants in the Workshop. I came with Mr. Alexander Parducho, the General Farm Manager of Leonie Agri Corporation in Sta. Rosa, Nueva Ecija. Their farm supplies the raw materials for the manufacture of herbal drugs by ASCOF Philippines. I, on the other hand, works as a Professor at the Central Luzon State University in the Science City of Munoz, Nueva Ecija. I am handling subjects in both undergraduate and graduate courses on the following topics: Applied Hydrology and Climatology, Irrigation and Drainage, Farm Structures, Water Resources Economics, Agricultural Waste Management, Soil and Water Conservation, Geographic Information Systems. Aside from teaching, I am also the Director of the Water Resources Management Center of CLSU promoting water use efficiency in agriculture.

SCOPE, CONTENT AND METHODOLOGY

Lectures

Several topics were presented during the first two days of the workshop at the Best Western Hotel in Sendai.

March 19, 2012 Monday

1. The state of plant factory and its future perspective: Comprehensive Review and challenges from global perspective by Dr. Toyoki Kozai, Professor, Center for Environment, Health and /Field Sciences, Chiba University.

2. The state of plant factory and its future perspective: Comprehensive overview from the perspective of economic performance and public sector involvement by Mr. Tamotsu Ito, Regional Management Research Division, Mitsubishi Research Institute, Inc., Tokyo.

3. The state of plant factory and its future perspective: Experiences of Chiba University by Dr. Toru Maruo, Asso. Professor, Bioresource Science Course, Chiba University, Chiba.

March 20, 2012 Tuesday

1. How plant factory can contribute to the agricultural and economic recovery in the devastated area by Mr. Hiroshi Kameyama, Mayor, Ichinoseki City, Miyagi Prefecture.

2. Management of plant factory: Costs, profitability and marketing by Mr. Tsuneo Abe, Kyushuya Sumita Vegetable Factory, Iwate Prefecture.

3. Contribution to generation of new industry by plant factory by Mr. Masatoshi Miyaki, Panasonic eco-solution, Panasonic Co. Ltd., Tokyo.

4. Mid- and Long-term perspective of plant factory and contribution to the agriculture in devastated area by Dr. Haruhiko Murase, Professor, Osaka Prefectural University.

Study Tour

A study tour was organized to visit two plant factories in Japan. The first plant factory that we have visited was the Kyushuya Sumita Vegetable Factory in Iwate Prefecture on March 21. The vegetable factory with a floor area of 1300 sq m was producing lettuce using artificial lighting and controlled temperature and humidity. Oxygen and carbon dioxide were also being supplied by the system. Each cultivation shelf has a height of 2.7 m and a length 5.3 m. There were six layers of lettuce production systems in the factory.

The second Plant Factory (PF) that we were able to visit was the Plant Factory at Chiba University. Dr. Toyoki Kozai was our host during the visit at the university. To experiment and demonstrate PF technology, they have seven consortium, of which five are for tomato production using sunlight and two are lettuce production using artificial light. We were able to see salad tomatoes grown under hydroponics system with solar lighting. The system uses a lot of equipment to control nutrient flow, oxygen and carbon dioxide. The tomato plants are grown on rockwool beds with high wire system. The most salient feature of the plant factory is to make the best growing conditions for high yield tomato by an integrated environment control system. A computer named “Prive-maximizer” is controlling the growing systems and facilities. The management and operation of the production facility is being assisted by Dutch consultants.

Another facility at Chiba University is a plant factory for lettuce production using artificial lighting (fluorescent and LED lighting fixtures). In order to realize mass production of lettuce, production is being done in 10-story DFT beds. Concentration and composition of minerals in the nutrient solution is optimized by sensors and recirculated. All persons entering the factory are disinfected by water and air showers before entry. The factory is air conditioned by heat pumps for 24 hours.

Workshop Session and Closing Program

The last day of the workshop (March 23, 2012 Friday) was held at the APO Headquarters in Tokyo. Three country papers were selected for presentation (Taiwan, South Korea and Thailand). These three countries have already a lot of experiences in Controlled Environment Agriculture in partnership with Japan. The Philippine country paper focused on the current state of protected cultivation that includes growing crops under greenhouse conditions. Farms practicing hydroponics were also included in the country presentation. After the presentation, Closing Remarks was delivered by Mr. Joselito C. Bernardo, Director, Agriculture Department, APO. Certificates of Completion were then distributed to the workshop participants.

OUTCOMES AND EVALUATION

The organizers of the workshop have been very efficient in the preparation and implementation of the activities. The whole package of activities including the cultural visits provided by the workshop has exceeded my expectations. The resource persons invited for the workshop are practicing experts in their fields. Though the lectures were presented in the Japanese language for the local participants, interpreters have been provided by APO.

RECOMMENDATIONS AND ACTION STEPS

The workshop was an overview of what a Plant Factory is all about. Perhaps, hands-on training on the management and operation of a Plant Factory can be offered by APO. A research program on controlled environment agriculture should be planned and implemented in the Philippines with certain modifications that will suit Philippine conditions. Seminars on Controlled Environment Agriculture should be organized in the country. At CLSU, after a meeting with the Vice President for Research, Extension and Training, I am now preparing for a University-Wide Seminar on Controlled Environment Agriculture.

SUBMITTED BY:

ARMANDO ESPINO JR.
Professor and Director
Water Resources Management Center
Central Luzon State University

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