February 2, 2004


Agriculture and Food Recycling Support The Community

* This article is under copyright protection.

Manabu Akaike
Universal Design Intelligence Inc.

Heat Thrown off by Incinerators Warms Greenhouses

Mie Central Development of Ueno City in Mie Prefecture is a managed final disposal site run by Daiei Internature Systems, which is the largest waste management business in the western region of Japan. The Mie General Recycling Center operated there is the largest scale industrial waste disposal and recycling facilities in the Kansai area. Its crushing and sorting equipment handles 800 tons of industrial waste a day for disposal or recycling. It embraces the latest combustion and drying technologies at its general intermediate disposal facilities, and uses the electricity and excess heat and steam generated in the combustion process to supply the surrounding area with recycled energy. The company is also working to develop recycled materials and conducting tests of thermal recycling in its aim to become a "resource reconversion" plant, where recycling of used materials results in the creation of new resources.

Mie Central Development's basic philosophy is environmental preservation through waste management. It has positioned the Mie General Recycling Center as a model for the formative planning of viable ecological balance zones, where industry, nature and human life can coexist in the most optimal way. A number of other businesses have grown up around the Recycling Center in an organic manner, existing in symbiosis with the central waste reconversion plant, or "recycling factory." These businesses include a manufacturing plant, a farm, an agricultural theme park, a green belt type park, and refrigerated warehouses. The discarded materials from each zone are converted at the recycling factory into new resources such as heat or electric energy or manure and supplied back to the business zones. The two blast incinerators that handle 65 tons of garbage daily are not simply disposal facilities but also serve as thermal recycling plants. The incinerators are equipped with boiler turbine machinery to generate electricity, and waste drying equipment to help convert food scraps and animal waste into manure and compost. These newly reconverted resources, together with excess steam generated by the incineration process, are supplied to the agricultural zone to power its greenhouses. These greenhouses are testing methods for cultivating tropical fruits, and are operated in cooperation with local farmers.

The Mie facility is a planning participant in the Negibozu Agricultural Cooperative, which raises onions with organic farming methods. The Negibozu Cooperative is currently the main producer of organic onions on ten hectares of surrounding farmland. The co-op wants to expand production to fifty hectares, in a campaign to bring onion farming back to the village level ("sato-ka").

In fact, the organic onions produced by this co-op are used not only in food production but to help disperse odors of waste material handled at Mie Central Development. The company also carries out environmental education programs at the greenhouses that are powered by recycled steam. In the thermal recycling powered subtropical greenhouse, local elementary school children are invited to watch and taste the mangoes, papayas and other fruits that are being raised in the greenhouses, and learn about recycling. This ideal symbiosis of a primary industry and a tertiary service can be further enhanced by the introduction of a local processed food maker into the picture.

Composting Organic Waste

Imuraya Confectionery (head office in Tsu City of Mie Prefecture) is a food manufacturer that was founded in 1896. Its company motto is "happy healthy life through food." It operates a general foods and frozen confections business including yude-azuki (boiled red bean confection) and azuki bars (red bean ice cream bars) as well as a flavorings business including natural extracts.

Imuraya contracts the handling of the organic waste and scraps that are generated by its food product factories to waste management company Mie Central Development. Part of their agreement calls for the organic waste of Imuraya to be composted by Mie Central for use in cultivation local to the area, and then that produce is in turn used by Imuraya as raw materials for its processing plants. This arrangement gives form to a locally sustainable recycling relationship.

In 1996, Imuraya Confectionery and Mie Central Development invested as equal partners in a venture called Compost Japan, which purpose was to reconvert waste materials into new resources. The plan is for organic waste and plant cuttings generated by local food processors to be collected and processed into a rich compost mixture pure enough to be used in organic farming, which is then sold to local farmers. Organic farmers who are involved in research into composting and soil cultivation in Mie Prefecture are helping develop compost fermentation techniques for Compost Japan.

This type of compost recycling business is coming to fruition as a solid new business for Imuraya Confectionery. With the opportunity provided by the inauguration of the local recycling business based on cooperative community efforts, Imuraya has opened a soil testing facility in Mie. Various types of research are carried out there, including measuring the effects of recycled compost on the soil, cultivation of red beans and green tea, and studies of the harmful effects of consecutive planting and how to protect against insect-borne blights. Imuraya also uses the Iga Fields which are the main testing location for the soil testing facilities as a place for training of its new employees. Utilizing the results of cultivation tests made at the facility, it provides compost and user support for the main producers of azuki red beans in Obihiro, Hokkaido. lmuraya is also planning new products using the azuki beans that are produced in Hokkaido, such as the azuki ice cream bars that it currently markets.

In order to lower the costs of processing high quality organic compost, lmuraya Confectionery and Compost Japan are currently studying the use of a cohesive powder known as PAC that will simplify the drying process that is used to dehydrate fresh organic materials. Though PAC is used in waterworks filtration systems, if it were to be used in the processing of organic materials, the resulting compost could not be certified "organic." Here lies a major contradiction in vertically oriented government regulation. It's important to bring attention to the fact that the existing organic certification system still harbors elements of regulation that will tend to work against the popularization of recycling and the growth of environmentally conscious farming.

From Food to Lifestyle, from Food to Health

The Iga no Sato Mokumoku Tezukuri (Handmade) Farm in Ayama Town in Mie Prefecture was founded in 1999 centered around the handmade ham processing workshop run by 19 pig farmers that had been known as Mokumoku. The lga no Sato Tezukuri Farm is a kind of agricultural theme park, supported by the national, prefectural and municipal governments to promote the theme of "food and farming," "natural," "agriculture" and "handmade." It emphasizes the importance of "knowing," "thinking," and "making" in the worlds of agriculture and food. Though it is in a rather remote location, it welcomes as many as 350,000 visitors a year.

Visitors can watch the handmade production of ham and frankfurters made from lga's pigs, beer made from barley, Japanese confections made from rice, and bread and pasta made from wheat at the various workshops located on the farm. There are places where visitors can come in close contact with the actual field and animal enclosures. Foods including rice and vegetables raised on farms under the direct management of Mokumoku are available at the food and drink facilities located on the farm grounds.

Last year, Mokumoku opened a hot spring facility surrounded by beautiful forest land with a view of the mountains. The facility features three outdoor baths including one giant bath built of natural rock, plus one indoor bath. By serving the high quality food from Mokumoku farms on the special Iga-yaki ceramic dishware, the facility emphasizes the "food to lifestyle" theme, while the "food to health" theme is being promoted by the hot spring bath facility.

Also, based on the slogan "from agriculture also springs education," Mokumoku is working to develop various outside agricultural education programs. Working with local schools to develop farming demonstration presentations for the "General Education Time Slot," it brings farm cows to the schools to show children how milk is produced. It also instituted the "Deposit Program" on the farm as a way to educate people about the environment, in which not one piece of trash is allowed to be carried off the farm facility.

I want to note that a result of all these efforts among the farmers and farming towns has been the growth of a natural environmental protection movement. The style of business management based on the company's philosophy of "farmers and farms in a corporate organization" has grown to include many of the town's farmers in managing the company. The 12-hectare facility is operated by 90 full company members from among residents of the town, plus 130 part-time members. The food processing carried out by the facility uses the products of 80 rice farmers, 400 wheat, soybean and vegetable growers, plus all the beer barley grown in the area. This represents about 20% of the production of Ayama Town's farmers.

The works of Mokumoku show that is not only concerned with protecting farming towns and the natural environment, but with developing a social system that will protect the farms and farmers of Japan.

JAPAN CLOSE-UP, June 2002, published by PHP

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