Our Corporate Communications staff spend time getting to know Sumitomo Corporation's different business sites around the world, reporting on how the people at those sites work. We will keep you up to date with the world of Sumitomo Corporation, which extends to every corner of the globe.
Mass Media Relations Team, Corporate Communications Department
Having been assigned to the Corporate Communications Department upon joining the company in 2009, she has been in charge of mass media relations related to General Products & Real Estate Business Unit and Human Resources department. Every day she deals with media coverage and publicizes company topics. Her experience of growing up in Kobe, Japan and Vienna, Austria enables her speak Kansai dialect and English, however she finds a little bit of difficulty when it comes to standard Japanese. She loves to travel, especially to South Korea.
What is the Agricultural Production Corporation?
The Agricultural Production Corporation is a form of business led by farmers focusing mainly on agriculture-related business; it acquires agricultural lands for farm management. Some advantages of farmers joining a corporation are: management and household finances are separated so that management status can be clarified; by creating financial statements, fundraising and sales channel developing become easier; affiliation with companies trying to launch agricultural business becomes easier; and so on. Currently, there are more than 10,000 agricultural production corporations nationwide.
Shibushi city is a port town facing Shibushi Bay located in the southern end of Kyushu, about one and a half hour drive southeast from Kagoshima Airport. In this city, Agricultural production corporation SAKAUE Co., Ltd., in which Sumitomo Corporation has held a stake since 2010, grows crops on about 150 hectares, which is equivalent to 200 soccer fields. What is the secret of their sound management, and why did they decide to accept Sumitomo Corporation's investment? I visited the site to find out.
The average age of domestic farmers is over 60, but many of the employees here are in their 20s.
Sakaue's working hour starts at 7am. I visited them in mid-December, so it was still dark and as cold as 1 degree Celsius. In such harsh conditions, a total of 27 employees split up to clean every corner of the office, confirmed the contents of work for the day, and left in teams for fields they were in charge of. Sakaue plows as many as 300 fields in Shibushi city. At this time of the season, work was focused on preparing for potato planting and harvesting kale and feed corn. From dawn to dusk, excluding lunchtime, employees worked hard in fields they were in charge of.
These well built seedling greenhouses are resistant to natural disasters. New crops, too, are grown here on a trial basis.
The biggest characteristic of Sakaue is that they practice farming on a consignment basis. They grow some vegetables under sales contracts with multiple food manufacturers. They are also willing to grow new crops responding to the needs of customers. Actually, they have been growing cabbage and other crops on a trial basis in 2011. In the past, they had an oversupply of white radishes. Learning from this bitter experience, they have developed a new business model which holds down the influence of the market price and avoids dependence on a single crop yield. Sakaue's management efforts such as planned production, risk diversification, price range reduction, etc. are based on the belief of President Takashi Sakaue that “in the future, advanced management skills will be required for agricultural business, just like other industries.”
Kale has a reputation for being bitter, but when raised in the right conditions has a delicious sweetness.
President Sakaue started farming at the age of 24, and had taken part in the management of the agricultural production corporation as a senior managing director till he took the current position as a president in 2009. The president studies agriculture and management at a graduate school, aiming at practicing “agricultural methods that do not rely on intuition.” The conventional style of agriculture that relies on the intuition of skilled farmers is hard to apply to large-scale farming with lands in various soil conditions, and is difficult to pass down to successors. Sakaue, on the other hand, has managed to produce fine crops with minimum use of fertilizers and agrochemicals through farming process management utilizing IT and thorough soil analysis. For example, Sakaue grows kale, a raw material for green juice, without using any pesticides or chemical fertilizers, and still manages to fill customer orders 100%. They have never failed to produce enough to meet demand. “Agriculture is science. People may think pesticide-free or organic farming is special, but it is not hard if we focus on effective farming methods and make appropriate efforts.”
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