After three years postponed by COVID19, Meros finally kicked off a long-awaited project in Colombia!

Meros is supporting the Japanese agricultural innovator Noshou Navi, together with the backing of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), to transfer knowledge related to Japanese rice planting techniques to farmers in Colombia. We are also exploring the possibility of developing small-lot, high value-added premium rice products and conducting consumer activities to inspire more rice ‘fans’.

Our Meros teammembers Chisa Ogura and Hiroki Seki traveled to Bogota, Cali, Ibague, Espinal, and Saldaña in Colombia over two weeks in February and March.

To the team’s delight, they found that the Saldaña office of Federarroz, the national federation of rice farmers’ associations in Colombia, has already installed a Kubota rice transplanter from Japan and has begun researching mechanical transplanting!

The area we visited is wet paddy fields and many farmers plant by hand, but the number of workers willing to do transplanting by hand is decreasing. Also, wages are rising, so transitioning to transplanting by machine will be important in the near future.

Machine transplanting is also very effective in fighting red rice, an invasive weed. A BASF rice variety called Clearfield, which is herbicide tolerant, has been introduced, but even so, this has not been sufficient to defeat the red rice. Gabriel Garces, the researcher in charge of rice transplanting, told the Meros team that another benefit of machine transplanting, compared to hand-planting, is that machine transplanting reduces the amount of seed required by 30-40%. Machine transplanting also saves water, since the crop can be planted without needing to flood the field.

Rice transplanters made by Kubota, Japan’s largest agricultural machinery manufacturer, are popular for their durability and Colombian company Motomart is the local distributor. However, the challenge is that although normal maintenance can be performed, the supply of replacement parts, such as planting claws are not easily available and so major repair work cannot be done.

In addition to machine transplanting, Federraroz is experimenting with other new rice growing techniques. For example, they are looking into various methods of seedling cultivation, as currently the seedling boxes are not disinfected and dry seed is sown before germination. Adding these additional steps may be able to greatly improve seedling health and yield. We are sure that there are even more techniques and experience we can transfer from Japan!