Aquaponics arrives in Japan – but is there a market?

Aquaponics has arrived in Japan, and is already offering opportunities for training and R&D, with eye on eventually developing a solid commercial market for aquaponically grown products.

Aquaponics is a cyclical organic farming method that is a cross between aquaculture (“aqua”culture) and hydroponics (hydro”ponics”). Microorganisms decompose fish waste and the plants absorb it as nutrients, thus allowing vegetables and fruits to be grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides. With the growing demand for organic vegetables in many markets, there has also been growing global interest in aquaponics.

The main produce usually grown using aquaponics are leafy greens such as lettuce and herbs, which have a short harvest cycle and high profitability. However, if profitability is not the goal, almost any other plant, including fruit, flowers, and ornamental plants can be grown using aquaponic technology

Leafy greens, like the lettuce growing here at Aquponi’s farm in an LED system, is one of the most common vegetables grown with aquaponics. The fish live in the tank in the circular tank on the right.

Aquponi is the first company in Japan specializing in aquaponics and recently, Meros visited Aquponi’s farm in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture to understand more about what they are planning in Japan and how the industry is developing.  Aquponi’s focus is on conducting R&D related to aquaponics, supporting the building of aquaponic farms in Japan as well as selling aquaponics kits for home use. The company aims to promote aquaponics as a sustainable growing system in Japan and providing training to individuals and companies in aquaponics through its Aquaponics Academy with both online and in person courses.. The facilities are also available for companies and universities to conduct research. They offer opportunities to experiment with working with aquaponic systems in greenhouses, using natural sunlight, as well as indoor systems, using LED lighting.

  

Above: Inspecting the fish tanks in the sunlit greenhouse and a look at the freshwater fish that are an essential part of this system.

However, finding a commercial market for aquaponic produce in Japan is still a challenge. According to Aquponi, the US leads the aquaponic market in both research and industry. In the US, aquaponic vegetables can be labeled as “aquaponic” and sold at a higher price than even regular organic vegetables. While some aquaculture companies and farmers in Japan have experimented with aquaponics, the demand in Japan for organic vegetables is much lower than in the US, and aquaponic vegetables have not yet found a market in Japan.

So while the good news is that aquaponics is gradually gaining recognition in Japan and the cultivation system itself has a variety of potential uses, including educational use in schools and horticultural medical use in hospitals, finding a market for aquaponic vegetables as an value-added product is still a challenge in Japan and is expected to be a longer term project.

New launches and trends in the Japan CBD scene

Last summer, Meros discussed the state of CBD in Japan. But nearly every week there are new launches and updates in Japan. We have been following trends in Japan’s CBD sector closely and here are a few of the recent highlights!

New CBD restaurant opens in Ginza

A concept restaurant called Today’s CBD by ONE-INCH just opened in Ginza this September. The restaurant is open three days a week, Wednesday through Friday, and a different chef is in charge each night. There is a regular menu, but in addition, the day’s chef adds daily specials to the menu each day. CBD is included in the condiments and CBD drinks are also offered.

New CBD specialty store opens near Shibuya

CBD (coffee) is a specialty CBD store that opened in Komaba Todai-mae in September. The store offers smoothies and coffee which include CBD oil. First you choose a drink, then you select the type and concentration of CBD to add. Each brand of oil is unique –  some are tasteless and odorless, while others have a hemp flavor. You can also enjoy the drinks on their own without and CBD added. The shop also sells CBD products such as CBD vapes and gummies.

New CBD beauty brand has launched in Japan

Japanese company Balanced (株式会社バランスド) has just launched a CBD brand called Walala and announced its first product, a CBD face cream, using synthetic CBD. In order to create a 100% legal CBD brand in Japan, they decided to use only chemically synthesized CBD for their products. Although CBD derived from cannabis stem and seed is not illegal in Japan, Balanced couldn’t find a partner who could provide CBD to their standards so they decided to use chemically synthesized CBD instead. All products are manufactured at their Japanese factory. In the future, they plan to sell products to beauty salons, esthetic salons, and massage parlors, as well as developing CBD products such as supplements and oils.

Follow Meros on social media for other updates on CBD trends in Japan and any new and interesting launches we find next!

NHK’s World’s Episode Highlights Agtech in Japan and Kenya

Meros’ Lucia Vancura recently appeared as a panelist on NHK World’s BizBuzz Japan episode on agribusiness, discussing the trends in ag tech, food innovation and the rise of “telephone farming” in Kenya, together with economist Jasper Kohl and NHK host Jon Kabira.

NHK World’s BizBuzz Japan

Topics included innovations and business ideas that can address the rising global demand for food, including Japan’s work on LED lighting for indoor farming, ways to effectively use the increasing acres of fallow land in Japan and how new markets are being sought for food innovations using rice, soy and other grains.

The show aired several times in August 2016.